The Best-Known Type Specimen In The Univers(e)

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Univers, designed in 1957 by Adrian Frutiger for Charles Peignot (namesake of Peignot by A.M. Cassandre) at Deberny Peignot, was one of a handful of great 20th century sans serifs, including Futura, Akzidenz and Helvetica.

Frutiger imposed strict discipline across all elements of the series, from light to dark, extra condensed to extended. Univers was one of the first typeface families to address the requisite that a typeface should constitute a family of related designs.

Earlier sans serif designs such as Gill Sans had much greater differences between weights, while loose families such as ATF’s Franklin Gothic often were promoted under different names for each style, to emphasize that they were not completely matching. Univers allowed documents to be created in one consistent typeface for all text, and it was the epitome of the Swiss typographic style. The most common specimen sheet, distributed throughout Europe and the United States, was this one, which included a grid of weights similar, in a way, to the periodic table. It continues to evoke the mid-century corporate modern aesthetic.

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