In 1954, the method for creating typefaces was changing. The Lumitype:Photon machine – a machine that would expose photographic paper by shining light through a disk containing the desired font – changed the way typesetters were deigning typefaces. Adrian Frutiger was one of the first of those designers to design for this new machine. In just a few days Frutiger came up with the design that would become Univers, originally wanting to call the design 'Le Monde' and then, when that was rejected, 'Galaxy'. Keeping with the astrological reference, Univers was accepted. Univers is considered the first sans-serif of the photo setting age.

Univers is a sans-serif typeface, but the differs from its predecessors because of the shift in naming convention that Frutiger wanted to take. Designed on a grid system, regular weight (or 'parent' face) was referred to as 55, bold 65, extra bold, 75 and light 45. The accompanying image helps illustrate the naming convention for the entire Univers family, which has 21 variants.

Design Differences

Univers has a larger x-height than most other sans-serif fonts. "The lowercase letters are larger in relation to their ascenders, descenders and capitals. The capitals are closer to the size and weight of the lowercase letters." [Dodd] All 21 variants of the family share the same x-height, capital height and ascender and descender length creating a font that is completely interchangeable with itself. The horizontal curves of the typeface are slimmer than other similar fonts. This was done to overcome the optical illusion that makes the other sans-serif fonts horizontal lines appear thicker.

The capital 'K' has arms that meet its stem at one single point. The capital 'Q''s tail lies mostly flat along the baseline. The lowercase 'g' has a tail rather than a bowl, much like other Swiss-inspired sans-serif fonts. Another defining characteristic of Univers is the diagonal cut on the ascender of the lowercase 't'.


Univers looks both great in print and on screen at nearly any size. In 1997, Adrian Frutiger redrafted the original design, optimizing for on screen use.

Rachel Galindo & Univers

Rachel Galindo, a graphic designer in Austin, Texas crafted a beautiful book from her typographic study of Univers. Samples of her book can be found on her portfolio website: www.behance.net/rachelgalindo. The study shows how nicely that the variants of Univers can be interchanged with each other, creating a 'wavy' or 'rolling' appearance in the text. It is from one of her designs, which to me looks like a the text block is collapsing in on itself or that letters are pouring from a block of text, which I am basing my visual study for Univers.

Visual Study


Carter, Rob, Philip B. Meggs, and Ben Day. Typographic Design: Form and Communication. 5rd ed. New York: John Wiley & Sons, 2012. Print.

Dodd, Robin. From Gutenberg to opentype: an illustrated history of type from the earliest letterforms to the latest digital fonts. Vancouver: Hartley & Marks, 2006. Print.

"Typedia: Univers." Typedia: A Shared Encyclopedia of Typefaces. N.p., n.d. Web. 3 Mar. 2012. .

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