The Frutiger Story

I asked Emily to start a Frutiger fan club on Facebook.

No, you start it,” she snapped back at me. Although she is 22, entirely self-supporting and living independently in the wilds of inner-Melbourne suburbia, I’m still her mother and the protocol for talking to parents is a bit like talking to pets, only it’s not sweet and it doesn’t involve silly voices.

Pleeeease,” I begged. I may have admitted that I didn’t know how to. Golden rule of using computer technology is knowing when to reveal your ignorance. The young can be very cruel as you hobble from menu to menu trying to do things that you can’t because you don’t even realise that, for example, HTML might be set to off etc.

Emily was adamant.

No,” she repeated, “Because then I’d be the administrator of this horrible club with you as the only member.”

As part of her degree course work, Emily has to reproduce print type faces, freehand. We were gathered outside her father’s house, when she showed him two samples of her work.

After a long career in journalism, specialising in high-end production, Campbell Smith (who refuses to come on Facebook!), has absorbed typefaces into his genetic profile. From the pre-computer days, when he wielded a scalpel and cut typeset galleys, which is how columns of print were once created, the one constant has been typography. It not only endures, it flourishes. Look at all the different fonts you get with various programs. I’m delighted by all the swish new fonts in NeoOffice, which I’ve just started using as a way of undermining the insidious greed of Microsoft, and also because the latest version of Word is so tricked up by zillions of nerdy functions that make it as clunky to use as a semi-trailer in a city lane.

So, Emily displays her work, showing a serif and a sans serif face. Clean, perfect black lettering in the equivalent of chocolate bar “fun size”. She asks her father to identify them. The sans serif is, of course, Helvetica.

What, no Fruitger?” I demand. When I worked with Campbell in the 1990s, our favourite font was Frutiger for any small print. It is a handy, highly-legible small face but it was the name itself we liked to say. “Fruity-jer” was proposed at the drop of a hat.

Campbell ran into his house and came out with a big, thick hardback, flipped to the last pages and read a paragraph that celebrated Adrian Frutiger, the creator of the eponymous font, among others. As fact, this was quite thrilling.

I just had to have more detail, so I went to Wikipedia, the people’s resource and a good port of call when the facts you need have a comfy margin for softness. In this new Information Age, I’ve come to divide facts into two categories: hard and soft. Hard fact is indisputable – map co-ordinants, chemical formulas and anything you can 100% prove. Soft facts are more open to opinion. For example, Emily was only a child when, looking at a packet of small chocolate bars, she observed, “Fun Size…I think they should be Sad Size.” Sizing, unless given as numeric measurement, is always soft fact, as witnessed by the concept of small, medium and large, especially in clothing and food serving. Could the two be related?

But back to our hero, Adrian Frutiger.

Wikipedia states, “Frutiger’s goal was to create a sans serif typeface with the rationality and cleanliness of Univers, but with the organic and proportional aspects of Gill Sans…

Frutiger’s simple and legible, yet warm and casual character has made it popular today in advertising and small print.”

The font is popular in corporate use and in public transport (Oslo, Norway; Charles de Gaul Airport, for which it was designed in 1968).

You cannot imagine my disappointment to learn that “Frutiger” is pronounced with a hard “g” as in “go” and not a soft “g” as in “George”. But I did get this from Wikipedia so it might not be quite 100% correct…

To me, it will always “Fruity-jer”.

Blazenka Brysha 9/8/2009

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