Type Sign Symbol, 1980
Type Sign Symbol, 1980, ABC Verlag, Zurich, is a fascinating look at Adrian Frutiger’s work. It is far more than a portfolio, monograph or retrospective, but a book that beautifully articulates the power of agency, an enquiring mind able to move freely between the pragmatics of design practice and the emotion of artistic expression. In many ways, the two synergise throughout this book. The prosaic often becomes the poetic in the author's grasp and application of emerging technologies and human interests and requirements. Cleary a deeply empathetic individual, able to orientate himself to understand different conditions and peoples, with a character that sought both modernist and universal efficiencies but also beauty, and a harmony with human and natural conditions.
The title forms the framework of the book, although not explicitly divided this way through headings. "Type" offers a look at the push and pull of written language and technology, and how this continues to inform the shape and reproduction of letters on page and screen. The author presents some of his own enquiries on the subject. Although technical, image and text work to clearly outline the principles and ideas in a straightforward and pragmatic manner, welcoming both technicians and the layman equally.
"Sign" forms the centre portion and reveals itself to be the link between type and symbol. Using his work for the Paris Metro we can understand the space created between the utilities and pragmatics of type, to the perceptions and associations of signs. And this is furthered by a section on Frutiger’s trademarks, a synthesises of type and image.
Finally, "Symbol", a more expression world of individual interpretation, artistic expression and philosophical enquiry into the natural world. This section is a far more personal look at the three dimensional and typographical structures created by Frutiger. Guest articles by Maurice Besset “Artistic Creation with Matter and Light” offers an outside perspective, and emphaises the fluidity of symbols and the power of interpretation. What is remarkable is that book guides the reader, thought to be a interested party with technical understanding of type, all the way through to world of poetry and philosophy of form. The difference between the beginning and the end is pronounced, yet, at no point is there the feeling of a shape, left turn. The book becomes a fascinating ode to the fluid boundaries of design, and perhaps presents a challenge to specialisation (researcher, designer technician), and further, to the demarcated spaces of art and design.