Adrian Frutiger, designer of Glypha and a large number of other very well received fonts, was born in Switzerland (Unterseen, Canton of Bern) in 1928. Encouraged to become involved in the world of print by his father and secondary school teachers, he began an apprenticeship at Otto Schaerffli, a printer based in Interlaken, at the age of sixteen.
After this, Frutiger studied under Alfred Willimann and Walter Käch at the Kunstgewerbeschule – the school of applied arts – in Zürich. Between 1949 and 1951 his calligraphy skills in particular were honed greatly, a form of artistic expression which suited him better than drafting.
Frutiger‘s typefaces all share one commonality: the sculptural background Frutiger was encouraged to leave behind by his father and teachers in his pursuit of a career. The letterforms are without fail imaginative even in the most simple situations.
After his time in the Kunstgewerbeschule, Frutiger was recruited by Deberny Et Peignot foundry based on the high quality of his illustrated essay, “Schrift / Écriture / Lettering: the development of European letter types carved in wood.” While there, he was employed to transfer older metal typefaces to the new Linotype phototypesetting method. Arguably his most famous typeface, Univers, was born during this time.
Slab serif fonts have been an integral part of the type world since the eighteen hundreds when they were commonly carved from wood. Small details could not be engraved into the wood as the type would then not be strong enough to withstand the printing process, so much more angular serifs were applied. In modern times, the bolder serifs do not necessarily render the face crude, particularly in Frutiger designs which are fundamentally influenced by calligraphy.
Slab serif fonts are extremely useful in many different design and typesetting projects. Heavier weights can lend themselves well to logotype, whereas lighter variants can be used for a more delicate task. Early typewriter fonts were all slab serif – hence the particular look of a mono-spaced typewritten document.
Possibly the most famous media coverage of any slab serif font is the continual employment of the face in “Wanted” posters. Indeed, at the time of the earliest printing methods, the search for outlaws made the slab serif extremely famous. The inspiration of those early reward posters can be seen in print and web design today, particularly in “grunge” styles.
Glypha‘s sister font, Serifa, was used in the rebranding of the former British Prime Minister Tony Blair‘s official stationary as he went from head of state to a patriarchal role in charitable endeavors.
Frutiger‘s early essay “Schrift / Écriture / Lettering: the development of European letter types carved in wood” was not his last written work. In fact, Frutiger has been the author or co-author six full length books, including “Formen und Gegenformen/Forms and Counterforms” (Syndor Press 1998), “Ein Leben für die Schrift” (Schlaefli & Maurer, 2003), “Der Mensch und seine Zeichen” (Marixverlag, 2004), “Nachdenken über Zeichen und Schrift” (Haupt, 2005) and “Symbole. Geheimnisvolle Bilder-Schriften, Zeichen, Signale, Labyrinthe, Heraldik” (Haupt, 2008).
In 2009, “Typefaces. The Complete Works” (Birkhäuser) was released, detailing over fifty of his fonts from creation to publication, promotion and beyond.