The finished result from our latest project brief. Everyone had to pick a typeface out of the hat and create a purely typographic page for a broadsheet newspaper to support their typeface. We also had to write some informative (but lively) copy to accompany. This is my case for Univers — my elder male tutor felt uncomfortable, my younger female tutor enjoyed it. Funny that.
If, Helvetica is your comfiest pair of baggy M&S Y-fronts — the ultimate utility and the ever reliable fail-safe in times of indecision — then Univers is your best fitting shortbreifs. They are cotton and comfortable, but black, with a touch of french lace trimming.
Designer Adrian Frutiger honed his machinist masterpiece for type foundry Deberny & Peignot in 1957. Educated in Zurich, Frutiger’s Univers was built upon Swiss objectivity. With the enormous variety of different weights, he has achieved a careful balance between unity and diversity.
The elegant detail (the lace trimming if you will) can be found in the condensed weights, which hail the French cinema posters of the 1970s. Currently enjoying a revival, ultra condensed Univers can regularly be seen at 200pt running into monochrome photography in an offbeat fashion magazine.
The comfy part that hugs your bum will be found in Athens International Airport, directing you to baggage reclaim. Or pinned to the side of a Westminster building confirming your successful location of Oxford Street. Univers’ expressively intentional anonymity – it’s sincere, clean geometric forms – make it part of the handful of typefaces considered the best for signage and wayfinding systems.
Despite its beautifully diverse functionality, Univers will sit comfortably on your skin, and wouldn’t dare cause a wedgie. It can be void of personality and blend seemlessly into well designed surroundings. It can be a dramatic centre piece to a page spread, or — exercising it’s full variety of stroke widths — can create dynamically intricate hierarchy systems.
Time-of-the-month or a hot date, Univers does it all with style.