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Old 04-29-2006, 12:27 PM   #1
ktinkel
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Default Little book on Univers

Since I commented on a book on Helvetica it is only fair to mention a book about the other sans serif classic from the 1950s: The Univers by Adrian Frutiger by Friedrich Friedl (ISBN 3-931317-78-1).

This is a sweet, very small book (6 X 6-1/4 inches, 48 pages). It tells the story of development of Univers, the first type family designed from the ground up on a coherent grid of 21 widths, weights, and styles. (Frutiger later used the same scheme for Frutiger, and Linotype used it for Helvetica Neue.) In 1997, Linotype Frutiger was released, with 59 fonts on an expanded grid. The original had been designed for both lead and photo-type; the new one is adapted for digital systems.

Univers was first released in 1957, about the same time as Helvetica. Friedl says that while Helvetica “had a general clarity and a modern, timeless and neutral effect without any conspicuous attributes (lending to its great success), Univers expressed a factual and cool elegance, a rational competence.”

That “cool elegance” must be what prompted grunge font-maker Neville Brody to call Univers “the coldest face ever designed.” (This was quoted by Simon Loxley in Type: The secret history of letters.) Do you agree? I don’t, though it is more rational than many of today’s popular sans serif faces.

My first experience of Univers was in setting type on the IBM Composer. It was constrained in units compared to a “real” typesetting system, and I became frustrated by that experience, so ignored Univers for at least a decade. But I came back to it in the 1980s, and the more I used it, the more I liked it — more than Helvetica, my (and almost every designer’s) favorite of the 1960s. This book conveys some of the passion with which Univers was received.

This book is out of print (in the U.S., anyway) and a bit hard to find, but Amazon lists copies from other dealers for $20 or so, in English and in the original German. It is a good book, worth looking for.
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Old 04-29-2006, 12:32 PM   #2
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Default A little quiz

Just for fun I have attached a page showing a bunch of sans serif fonts, including Univers and Helvetica.

Can you spot those two? Can you identify the others?
Which do you prefer?
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Old 04-29-2006, 04:13 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ktinkel
That “cool elegance” must be what prompted grunge font-maker Neville Brody to call Univers “the coldest face ever designed.” (This was quoted by Simon Loxley in Type: The secret history of letters.) Do you agree? I don’t, though it is more rational than many of today’s popular sans serif faces.
Agree? No. But my all-time favorite sans-serif font is Futura, precisely because it is so very rational.

   
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Old 04-29-2006, 04:16 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ktinkel
Just for fun I have attached a page showing a bunch of sans serif fonts, including Univers and Helvetica.

Can you spot those two? Can you identify the others?
Which do you prefer?
It's rather fuzzy... Can you do a sharper one? Still, I'll bet the top one is Futura.

To spot differences, good letters to look for are e, a, g and various descenders (in the top one: the completely straight j makes it immediately recognizable as Futura or something very closely related).

   
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Last edited by iamback; 04-29-2006 at 10:23 PM. Reason: arrgh - it's much easier to make ypots with a sleepy mind
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Old 04-29-2006, 05:43 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by iamback
It's rather fuzzy... Can you do a sharper one? Still, I'll bet the top one is Futura.

To sport differences, good letters to look or are e, a, g and various descenders (in the top one: the completely straight j makes it immediately recognizable as Futura or something very closely related).
Very good! Futura Book, in fact.

I love Futura, though think it is difficult to set in text sizes. But I have a wonderful book (found at a yard sale for a dollar!) set in foundry Futura. It was written by Paul Renner, but on color: Color, order and harmony.

I scanned in a couple of spreads and using them as a template, tried to duplicate the pages with digital fonts, and was really disappointed.

Anyway, is this image any better? (Trying to avoid forum size limits; if all else fails, I can upload it to my server.)
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Old 04-29-2006, 10:21 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by ktinkel
Very good! Futura Book, in fact.
I guess I studied that font so much that it'll jump out at me anywhere.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ktinkel
I love Futura, though think it is difficult to set in text sizes. But I have a wonderful book (found at a yard sale for a dollar!) set in foundry Futura. It was written by Paul Renner, but on color: Color, order and harmony.
I've seen several books using Futura - this could actually be one of them. Difficult indeed, but it can work for certain types of book. "Display" kind of books, with bits of text clarifying the images, for instance. I wouldn't use it for a novel though.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ktinkel
Anyway, is this image any better? (Trying to avoid forum size limits; if all else fails, I can upload it to my server.)
Much better. But a pity there's no 'g' in there. Still, I have little trouble seeing the differences between the various fonts, but apart from Futura am at loss putting a name to them. I hope you'll summarize them all once everyone's had a go!

   
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Old 04-30-2006, 05:12 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by iamback
I've seen several books using Futura - this could actually be one of them. Difficult indeed, but it can work for certain types of book. "Display" kind of books, with bits of text clarifying the images, for instance. I wouldn't use it for a novel though.
This book is dense with text, looks like 16 point with a point of leading, 34 picas wide, getting roughly 12 words to the line. Justified, and with that obnoxious practice of no paragraph indents, which I loathe as a failed bit of theory.

Aside from that, it is readable, but I would not want to read a novel set this way. That may be habit as much as anything — I have a mental image of how a novel should look. Maybe if this were leaded a bit more or a little smaller with a narrower measure — don’t know exactly.

In any event, to the extent this works, the credit goes to the use of foundry type. There is no digital font I know of that can reproduce this text, and even when I come close, it is harder to read. The slight texture of type pressed into the paper also contributes to readability (and the pleasure of looking at the page).

Quote:
Originally Posted by iamback
Much better. But a pity there's no 'g' in there. Still, I have little trouble seeing the differences between the various fonts, but apart from Futura am at loss putting a name to them. I hope you'll summarize them all once everyone's had a go!
I will make a column of g — should have thought of that. It is often the most distinctive character.

   
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Old 04-30-2006, 07:05 AM   #8
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Quote:
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But a pity there's no 'g' in there.
Here you go — the g from each of the typefaces, numbered to avoid confusion.
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Old 04-30-2006, 08:43 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ktinkel
Here you go — the g from each of the typefaces, numbered to avoid confusion.
Thanks. Nicely making my point about which letters to watch for differences. ;-)

   
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Old 04-30-2006, 10:53 AM   #10
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Thanks. Nicely making my point about which letters to watch for differences. ;-)
Sure. Probably makes it too easy, though.

   
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