R.I.P. Adrian Frutiger

I was saddened to hear today about the death of Adrian Frutiger (24 May 1928 – 12 Sep 2015). It was all over the internet, but I waited until people like Adam Twardoch wrote about it until I believed it. On the other hand, especially if you didn’t know him personally, this is a good occasion to celebrate his amazing work. (After all, why mourn the inevitable. Old people have to die at some point.)

I’ve used many of his fonts in my work. But more than anything I’ve had to use Univers over and over. It’s one of those common information graphic fonts, alongside Helvetica and others. Because of this ubiquitousness it is a bit bland and boring. At the same time, I have to admit that it just works. The number of different variants in the family ensure that it will accommodate both tight and spacious areas while staying clear and readable. And you’ll still always have typographic unity in your work.

If you’re just starting on the path of infographics and are troubled by what fonts to use, Univers is one easy answer. Stop wasting your time trying to find the most hip or efficient font. Just grab something like 47, 57, 67 (and maybe the oblique variants) and save your energy for more important matters.

Ps. Yes, many of those rips (especially full stops) still need kerning. Can’t be bothered, there are too many of them. I’m going to invoke the spirit of modernism and claim that “machines know best”.

We are all fallible

I don’t want to gloat over other people’s mistakes. But I can’t help but having a warm fuzzy feeling every time I spot a mistake in a graphic made by one of the major newspapers. It is a comforting reminder that people working for the global big shots like the The Times, The Guardian, The New York Times, etc., are just like the rest of us.


Here’s what I found from The Times on Wednesday this week (June 19 2013), on page 41. This Business section story talks about global shipping business and its challenges. The graphic offers a combination of information including a map of core maritime shipping routes. They have decided to include bottlenecks along the routes.

Oresund2I can’t comment on the accuracy of the number data. But one very simple thing was evident to me. Øresund is definitely not in Finland! 😀 It’s a strait between Sweden and Denmark.

You might say that naturally the big players are capable of making mistakes too, it’s kind of self-evident! But it is so common to forget that simple truth and think that we “little people” from smaller countries and in smaller companies are somehow categorically different. People belittle themselves and often justify their mistakes by exaggerating the difference. “After all, we are not The Times or something,” is a common phrase.

Also, in my experience, most students have a very glamorised image of people in the big companies. They tend to put them on a pedestal. Now, I don’t mind putting people on pedestals if they earn it. But just because someone happens to be working for Company X is not enough in itself.

Many also seem to hold a view that if you keep climbing from company to company, then one day you will be in a place that is perfect. When you reach that candy mountain, you will have all the resources you have ever wished for. And you’re not going to make any mistakes anymore! 🙂

*ahem* …or you finally reach that university where bureaucracy and organisational idiocy is not going to screw up your work all the time, and the people are actually intelligent and open minded… *ahem*

People are people. No matter where they are and who they work for. And also companies are always imperfect. In the end, it’s not about finding the “golden company”, but finding the one which offers you the best compromise between benefits and responsibilities. And that will always be subjective.

Photos of Isotype at the V&A Museum

If you missed the awesome Isotype exhibition at the Victoria and Albert museum (2 Dec 2010 to 17 Mar 2011). you can at least enjoy some photos from there on Flickr. There is Isotype material and also a couple of pictures of artwork by Gerd Arntz.

Me and Dave Kellam saw the exhibition in early December. We felt a bit odd and at the same time privileged to know the Isotype material so well. The last time we saw it we got a great hands-on show by Michael Twyman. We could touch and smell and take photos of them as much as we wanted. And now the same material was under plexiglass and people where admiring them from a distance.

And of course, it still makes me proud that my department hosts the collection where many of these items are kept.