There is perhaps no single typographer whose work can be found in such a diverse range of applications. Adrian Frutiger, who died last week at age 87, created typefaces that make you feel at home in every single place you see them, from subway stations to your computer keyboard.
No one seemed to notice him: A dark figure who often came to stand at the edge of London's Hammersmith Bridge on nights in 1916. No one seemed to notice, either, that during his visits he was dropping something into the River Thames. Something heavy.
Humans have been writing for a long, long time—we were making lettermarks for thousands of years. Of course, that doesn't mean we've ever reached a consensus about the perfect way to write or print. And over the past few years, we've seen designers take on real, tangible problems using type design.
The idea of branding a place is a fairly new one, and the notion of place-based typefaces is even newer, with national and local governments from Qatar to Chattanooga commissioning their own fonts. The latest country to set its on typeface is Sweden—but it's also questioning whether a national font is a bit too…
It was square, squat, and inherently cute. It was friendly. It was easy to use. I'm talking about the beige box with the blue grinning face that came to live with us in 1985. But I'm also talking about the font that came with it.
Apple, Trapper Keeper, and Reebok: Three of the most well-known brands of the 1980s, and three companies that used the same futuristic-looking typeface to do it. So why isn't the typeface a classic like other period pieces *cough*Helvetica*cough*? Fate is a funny thing.
Every few years, there are calls to retire the American penny (as cumbersome and too expensive to produce), and rebuttals to preserve it (for posterity and price stability). I don't know how or when this question will be answered. Personally, I would not miss the gobs of metal in my pockets, but I would miss the…