From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Not to be confused with Universe.
Univers Specimen.svg
Category sans-serif
Classification Neo-grotesque sans-serif
Designer(s) Adrian Frutiger
Foundry Deberny & Peignot
Date released 1957
Variations Zurich

Univers (French pronunciation: ​[ynivɛʁ], "ünivair") is the name of a sans-serif typeface designed by Adrian Frutiger in 1954.[1] Classified as a neo-grotesque typeface, one based on the model of the 1898 typeface Akzidenz-Grotesk, it was notable on its launch for its availability in a comprehensive but consistent range of weights and styles.

Frutiger would go on to become one of the most notable typeface designers of the 20th century, and Univers proved enormously influential: it was one of the first typefaces to fulfill the idea that a typeface should form a family of consistent, similar designs. Past sans-serif designs such as Gill Sans had much greater differences between weights, while Akzidenz-Grotesk and the Franklin Gothic family often were advertised under different names for each style, to emphasise that they were separate and different. By creating a matched range of styles and weights, Univers allowed documents to be created in one consistent typeface for all text, increasing the range of documents that could be artistically set in sans-serif type.

Originally conceived and released by Deberny & Peignot in 1957, the type library was acquired in 1972 by Haas Type Foundry. It was transferred into the D. Stempel AG and Linotype collection in 1985 and 1989 respectively upon the Haas'sche Schriftgiesserei's acquisition and closure; it is now owned by Monotype following its purchase of Linotype in 2007.[2]


Univers is one of a group of neo-grotesque sans-serif typefaces, all released in 1957,[3] that includes Folio and Neue Haas Grotesk (later renamed Helvetica). As all are based on Akzidenz-Grotesk, these three faces are sometimes confused with each other. These typefaces figure prominently in the Swiss Style of graphic design.

Different weights and variations within the type family are designated by the use of numbers rather than names, a system since adopted by Frutiger for other type designs. Frutiger envisioned a large family with multiple widths and weights that maintained a unified design idiom. However, the actual typeface names within Univers family include both number and letter suffixes.

Currently, Univers type family consists of 44 faces, with 16 uniquely numbered weight, width, position combinations. 20 fonts have oblique positions. 8 fonts support Central European character set. 8 support Cyrillic character set.

Despite the large family of widths, the "@" sign is not rescaled by width.

Univers Cyrillic, Univers Pro Cyrillic (2010)[edit]

In April 2010, Linotype announced the release of Cyrillic versions of the original Univers family, in TrueType, PostScript, and OpenType Pro font formats. Released fonts include Univers 55 Roman Oblique; Univers Pro Cyrillic 45 (roman, oblique), 55 (roman, oblique), 65 (roman, oblique), 75 (roman, oblique), 85 (roman, oblique), 47 (roman, oblique), 57 (roman, oblique), 67 (roman, oblique), 39 (roman), 49 (roman), 59 (roman).[4]

Linotype Univers[edit]

In 1997 Frutiger reworked the whole Univers family in cooperation with Linotype, thus creating the Linotype Univers, which consists of 63 fonts. By reworking the Univers more "extreme" weights as Ultra Light or Extended Heavy were added as well as some monospaced typefaces. The numbering system was extended to three digits to reflect the larger number of variations in the family.

In addition to extra font width and weight combinations, the fonts are digitally interpolated, so that character widths scale uniformly with changing font weights. For fonts within a specific font weight, caps height, x-height, ascender and descender heights are the same. For oblique fonts, the slope is increased from 12° to 16°, and the character widths were adjusted optically. In addition, characters such as &, ®, euro sign, are redesigned.

Linotype Univers Typewriter[edit]

Linotype Univers Typewriter is a sub-family of fixed-width fonts under the Linotype Univers family. Four fonts have been produced in Regular and Bold weights, with obliques on each weight. Characters such as 1, I, J, M, W, i, j, l, dotless j are drawn differently.

Univers Next (2010)[edit]

In 2010, Linotype extended the Linotype Univers family with true small caps and renamed into a more logical naming of "Univers Next" to fit better in the Platinum Collection naming. All later extensions of the font family were marketed under the Univers Next title.

The font family includes all fonts previously released under the Linotype Univers title.

Univers Next W1G[edit]

This version supports Greek and Cyrillic characters.

The font family includes 12 fonts (330, 331, 430, 431, 530, 531, 630, 631, 730, 731, 830, 831) in 6 weights and 1 width, with complementary italics.

The Cyrillic version was released as Univers Next Cyrillic in OpenType Pro format.

Univers Next Arabic (2011)[edit]

It is a companion to the Latin typeface Univers Next designed by Nadine Chahine with the consulting of Adrian Frutiger. It is a modern Kufi design with large open counters and low contrast, mainly designed to work in titles and short runs of text. The font includes the basic Latin part of Univers Next and support for Arabic, Persian, and Urdu. It also includes proportional and tabular numerals for the supported languages.

The font family consists of 3 fonts (330, 430, 630) in 3 weights and 1 width, without italics. OpenType features include fraction, localized forms, proportional figures, contextual alternates, discretionary ligatures, initial forms, terminal forms, glyph composition/decomposition, isolated forms, medial forms, required ligatures.

The Frutiger numbering system[edit]

Adrian Frutiger designed his unique classification system to eliminate naming and specifying confusion. It was first used with Univers, and was adopted for use in the Frutiger, Avenir, and Neue Helvetica typeface families.

The number used in a font is a concatenation of two numbers. The first digit defines weight, while the second defines width and whether it is oblique or not.

Number 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Weight - Ultra Light Thin Light Normal, Roman, or Regular Medium Bold Heavy Black Ultra or Extra Black
Width and position Ultra Extended Ultra Extended Oblique Extended Extended Oblique Normal Oblique Condensed Condensed Oblique Ultra Condensed -

(note: oblique is not strict italic)

Due to some typeface manufacturers’ failure to understand and implement the system correctly, however, things have actually become more confusing. To further complicate matters, the numbering system is not consistently applied to the Univers font family. In older publications, all oblique fonts have even-numbered 2nd values; but in digital versions, both odd and even 2nd values have been used on oblique fonts, but not in all font formats or weights. For example, Univers 55 Roman Oblique has both Windows menu names and PostScript full names as Univers LT 55 Oblique and Univers 56 Oblique, but only for the Windows PostScript version of the font; however, in Univers 85 Extra Black Oblique, there is no font named Univers 86 in any format. Nevertheless, oblique Univers fonts always have even-numbered 2nd value.

Inconsistent usage aside, the syntax of 2nd value is also inconsistent with 1st value. Bigger 1st value implies the glyph of a given character uses more horizontal space, but it has opposite meaning in 2nd value.

Linotype numbering system[edit]

In Linotype Univers and Univer Next font family, a 3-number system is used. First numeral describes font weight, second numeral describes font width, third numeral describes position.[5]

Number 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
Weight - Ultra Light Thin Light Regular Medium Bold Heavy Black Extra Black
Width - Compressed Condensed Basic Extended - - - - -
Position Roman Italic - - - - - - - -

Unlike the original Univers, tilted fonts in Linotype Univers and derivative font families have not been named 'oblique'.


Keycaps featuring Univers from a pre-2003 PowerBook G4
Univers on the UNICEF logo
Univers 57 (Condensed Regular) in use in the Latin text at Athens airport
Audi Sans, a variation of Univers used in the dashboard graphics of an Audi A3 instrument panel

Univers enjoyed great popularity in the 1960s and 1970s because many corporations adopted it for usage. It is used in a modified version by the new Swiss International Air Lines (previously, Swissair used the typeface Futura), Deutsche Bank and for signage all over the world. General Electric used the font from 1986 to 2004 before switching to GE Inspira.[6] Apple Inc. previously used this typeface as well as its condensed oblique variant for the keycaps on many of its keyboards, before completely switching to VAG Rounded in August 2007 with the introduction of new keyboards and the new iMac (their notebook computers already featured that typeface since 1999). Munich Re used a custom version of Univers until 2009.[7] Univers is known for its clear lines and legibility at great distances.

The Montreal Metro, Bay Area Rapid Transit,[8] various Toronto Subway and RT stations, Frankfurt International Airport and the Walt Disney World road system also make extensive use of this typeface (though Disney is in the process of replacing it with Avenir). Some but not all London boroughs use Univers Bold Condensed for street signs.[9] The Royal Air Force adopted the font for all merchandising material in 2006 to complement its new corporate logo. Ordnance Survey also adapted Univers for use on their maps (added tails on the lowercase l and t, and other small changes to help distinguish the type from the map details) of which they own all rights to. In 2006, the Office of Fair Trading adopted Univers as its corporate typographic voice in size 12-point so that visually impaired people can more easily read its publications.

The font is also used in the UK for School Tests and exams extensively, due to its clear differences between characters like I and 1 that prevents confusion between letterforms.

Univers was widely used by the East German government during the 1980s for propaganda material, especially during the 40th anniversary of the country. [10]

Univers was used for George W. Bush's campaign logos in both 2000 and 2004. Bush's 2000 campaign logo was set in Univers 85 Extra Black, while the 2004 campaign logo used Univers 85 Extra Black Oblique (italic).

Rand McNally once used Univers on their maps and atlases from the 1970s to 2004 when they adopted use of Frutiger.

From 1974 to 1987 the World Book Encyclopedia used Univers as their secondary font, including the introductory page of every volume.

Univers is embedded in the HP LaserJet 1100 Printer. Installing a LaserJet 1100 on a Windows system will also add several new fonts to the list, with a printer icon near their names. This icon means that the selected font is a printer font (processed by the printer), instead of a system font (processed and rasterized by the system, such as a TrueType or OpenType typeface).

Since early 2009, CNN Domestic and CNN International have adopted several weights of Univers in their on-screen graphics. CNN International used Helvetica until the switch to Univers, while CNN Domestic previously used many different typefaces.

US airline Spirit Airlines uses Univers Extended in various weights for its branding.

Safelite, the largest automotive glass repair and replacement company in the US, uses Univers extensively and in various forms.

ESPN also used Univers as its main font for their on-screen graphics from 2004 to 2010; the ESPN Bottom Line ticker continues to use Univers as of 2013. However in their broadcasts of NFL's Monday Night Football, NBA on ESPN and ESPN Major League Baseball, they changed to Franklin Gothic in the 2006-07 season. SportsCenter and other ESPN-related programming gradually switched to Klavika in their on-screen graphics in 2009, later followed by the network's flagship live programs. (As of 2014, a Helvetica-like typeface is used as ESPN's primary font.)

Most Fox Television Stations use this in newscasts.

Frutiger (with Howard "Bud" Kettler[11]) adapted[12] Univers for the 9-unit escapement system on the IBM Selectric Composer widely used for in-house typesetting in the 1960-70s.

Univers 45, 55, 65, 57, 67, 53, 63 are incorporated in PostScript standard as PostScript 3 core fonts.

Audi Sans is a variant based on Univers,[13] designed by Ole Schäfer.[14] It became Audi's corporate identity font in 1990s. [15] when Audi contracted MetaDesign to support Audi's brand management strategy.[16] The font was used extensively by Audi, appearing in sales literature, corporate communications, owners' documentation and even on the vehicles themselves in the instrument panel graphics and their MMI dashboard displays.

Portal's Aperture Science logo uses the Univers font.[citation needed]

The current eBay logo is set in Univers.[17]

YESCO, a custom sign company, branded their new logo using the Univers font.

As Univers is installed with many printers, Ghostscript uses a free version of the most common weights created by URW++ called U001, which is available for download.[18]

Comparison with Akzidenz-Grotesk, Folio, and Helvetica[edit]

Comparison of distinguishing characters in Akzidenz-Grotesk, Folio, Helvetica, and Univers 55

Univers is similar in design to other European grotesque fonts, of which Akzidenz-Grotesk, Folio, and Helvetica are among the most common. Differences include:

  • The tail of 'a' and the top of '1' are much less rounded.
  • Upper-case 'G' is formed without an arrow head (called a spur).
  • Both arms of 'K' join at the stem.
  • The tail of 'Q' runs along the baseline.
  • The tail of 'R' is curved (compared with Akzidenz-Grotesk).
  • The top of 't' is angled.
  • Lower-case 'y' has a straight descender.
  • Many of the numerals in Univers have straight vs. curved ascenders
  • Helvetica tends to have a slightly greater x-height than Univers
  • Univers generally has quite a wide spacing between letters, and its low x-height gives it a more low-slung, splayed appearance than Helvetica, especially in bold.

Dutch font designer Martin Majoor, while praising Univers for its "almost scientific" range of weights, criticised it for its lack of originality: "basing a sans serif on another is rather cheap."[19] Frutiger's later landmark sans-serif designs, Avenir and Frutiger, would take very different, more humanist and geometric approaches.


  1. ^ Meggs, Philip B. (1998). "Meggs' History of Graphic Design - 4th Edition". John Wiley & Sons. p.361. ISBN 0-471-69902-0
  2. ^ "Univers". MyFonts. Monotype. Retrieved 26 March 2015. 
  3. ^ Spiekermann, Erik and E.M. Ginger (2003). Stop Stealing Sheep & find out how type works. Peachpit Press, p. 65. ISBN 978-0-201-70339-9
  4. ^ International typography gets a Cyrillic boost
  5. ^ Linotype Univers 3.0
  6. ^ "A Website about Corporate Identity", entry for GE
  7. ^ http://www.rebrand.com/2010-notable-munich-re
  8. ^ BART Wayfinding: The Shotgun Technique
  9. ^ http://photo.net/philg/digiphotos/200102-e10-london/orange-street-sign.half.jpg
  10. ^ "GDR Wall Newspaper Material (1989)". Calvin.edu. Retrieved 2013-09-15. 
  11. ^ Macmillan, Neil (2006). An A-Z of Type Designers. Laurence King Publishing. p. 118. ISBN 1-85669-395-3. 
  12. ^ Frutiger, Adrian (1967-02-27). "The IBM Selectric Composer: The Evolution of Composition Technology". IBM Journal of Research and Development (IBM) 12 (1): 9–14. doi:10.1147/rd.121.0009. Retrieved 2007-12-12. 
  13. ^ Ads/Recreation
  14. ^ primetype.com: Ole Schäfer
  15. ^ Neil Macmillan. An A-Z of Type Designers, p29-30. 2006. King Publishing Ltd. ISBN 1-85669-395-3/ISBN 1 85669 395 3
  16. ^ MetaDesign :: Customers :: Cases :: Audi
  17. ^ eBay: A new look for the global online marketplace.
  18. ^ "Ghostscript". Ghostscript. Retrieved 19 January 2015. 
  19. ^ Majoor, Martin. "My type design philosophy". Retrieved 12 September 2014. 

External links[edit]