Maestro’s Favourite

Full of imperfections and packed with personality, Avenir is its designer Adrian Frutiger's favourite typeface. Soapbox & Sons’ Jenny Theolin explains why she agrees with his assessment. 

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I may be on a 1980s wave at the moment, but I absolutely adore the Avenir uppercase ‘Q’. As the font family name suggests, fast-forward twenty-six years into the future, and voila it still feels contemporary. In fact, Amsterdam recently used Avenir in its city branding. I am surprised the musical Avenue Q didn’t use it though — a typography joke that got away.

Outside the Soapbox & Sons studio, I have also been busy teaching graphic design, and being knee-deep in typefaces, using and teaching my students about them. It’s interesting to notice how a typeface like this, which literally means ‘future’ (in French), really has the longevity it was meant to have. It’s the quiet confidence, the elegance, the ‘no-need-to-boast’ qualities, which makes Avenir one of my favourites. 

Designed by Adrian Frutiger and inspired by predecessors Futura, Univers and Kabel, this humanist linear grotesque typeface is really rather stunning. According to Frutiger himself, Avenir is “the most precise typeface [he] has ever drawn”. Bear in mind it was all drawn by hand too. 

According to Monsieur Frutiger, Avenir was intended to “feel slightly more human” than its competitors, which I agree it still does. It is slightly less perfect than the others, and it’s this I am growing to love. And guess what, it is precise, but not perfect. If you look really close, you can see the 'O' is not a symmetrical circle – and neither is the 'Q'.

Frutiger has said it was because he created Avenir alone, in peace and quiet, without any assistants, that allowed his personality to shine through. And for a man who’s a Font God, the fact that Avenir is also his favourite says quite a lot. So, I am proud to be using it for my new business cards, which I will be designing alone on an island in the Stockholm archipelago.