Old Masters, New Fonts

Hermann Zapf will be 89 years old on his next birthday. Adrian Frutiger will be 79 on his. The careers of these giants of the typographic arts began more than 50 years ago and span the eras of metal, photo and digital typesetting. Their typefaces have become virtual household names—well, at least within the households of graphic designers. Optima, Palatino, Zapf Chancery, Zapfino, Univers, Frutiger and Avenir are but a few of their typefaces that many of us grew up with—and continue to use today. Most would be content to relax if they had produced a similar body of work. These two masters, however, are far from calling it a day.

Capitalis from Adrian Frutiger
Just last year, Linotype released Capitalis, the latest design from Adrian Frutiger. This new family consists of two titling alphabets (Regular and Outline) and a suite of signs and symbols based on images from Frutiger’s book "Signs and Symbols: Their Design and Meaning."

Capitalis is a marked departure from Frutiger’s earlier work. In fact, he confesses that creating the family was a liberation for him. After working on so many structured and meticulously constructed typefaces, he says that creating this new design was "a breath of fresh air." Although the family is inspired by classical sources, it’s not based on any specific historical model. At first glance, it may seem related to the Roman "Capitalis Monumentalis," or Roman square capitals, as used for the inscription at the base of Trajan’s Column. A closer examination, however, reveals a vitality not found in characters that the Romans carved in stone. Capitalis dances across the page with the elegant joy of a ballerina.

Stylistically, Capitalis Outline forms a bridge to Capitalis Signs, a sampling of Frutiger’s personal cosmos of symbols. Many are immediately recognizable, while others leave room for interpretation. Typical of the latter are Frutiger’s "Life Signs," soft, hand-drawn figures whose lines have no apparent beginning or end, creating both interior and exterior spaces.

While Frutiger is generally regarded as a typographic artist of the highest order, he doesn’t see himself that way. He says he simply wants "to tell stories, to draw thin lines and create contours of signs." The Capitalis family is the newest series of lines and contours from this unassuming giant.

Palatino Sans from Hermann Zapf
Palatino Sans, the newest typeface from the hand of Hermann Zapf, will be released in early 2007. Although the design has distinct ties to Zapf’s classic roman typefaces of same name, it also finds its roots in an example of his calligraphy from the early 1970s. Different from traditional sans serif faces that tend to have visually monotone strokes and constructed shapes, Palatino Sans is made up of curved, obviously hand-drawn letters. The design is free-flowing and without sharp edges. The family is available in five weights with complementary italics, in two styles of Regular and Informal. While both styles were created to harmonize with Zapf’s updated Palatino Nova, they also stand on their own as distinctive communication tools.

Typical of all the Palatino alphabets, Zapf’s new sans has the open letter ‘P’ and elegant, almost square, capitals. He added a curved lowercase ‘l’ that’s more legible. While Palatino Sans Regular and Informal share basic design proportions, the Informal takes on more of a written form, with more distinctive and, at times, more fanciful shapes. The bottom diagonal of the ‘k’, for example, drops below the baseline, and the curve of the ‘r’ rises above the other lowercase round characters. Informal is more spontaneous—and calls more attention to itself—than the Regular design.

Palatino Sans melds elegance and amiability like few other typefaces. In large sizes, it can’t go unnoticed. In addition to being distinctive as a display design, Palatino Sans is also remarkably readable in text sizes, thanks to its even color, simple shapes and open proportions. Clearly a "humanistic" design, Zapf’s new Palatino Sans sits between the two extremes of Adrian Frutiger’s Frutiger and Fred Goudy’s Goudy Sans—a good place to be.

Both Capitalis and Palatino Sans are available for purchase through Linotype.

HOW February 2007