In the early 1960s, Paris’s Orly
airport was bursting at the seams. On 13 January 1964, the French Council of Ministers made the decision to build a major new airport on the sparsely populated land near the village of Roissy-en-France
The young architect Paul Andreu
was entrusted with the task of designing the “Aéroport Paris Nord”
(working title). He organised a series of workshops with architects, designers, psychologists and artists, for Roissy was to be the site of something new and groundbreaking. Among the experts was the young Swiss type designer Adrian Frutiger
, who, with his successful typeface Univers
, released in 1957, was to develop the signage.
Drafts for the Concorde typeface by Adrian and André Gürtler (Paris, 1959; BILD: Linotype)
But he found Univers too geometric and compact to be read quickly on signs, and reverted to a seven-year-old sans-serif draft called Concorde
, which he had drawn with André Gürtler
for the typesetting company Sofratype
The colour psychologists had settled on a yellow background for the signage, with the French text printed in white and the English in black. For the workshop presentation, Frutiger used coloured Letraset sheets. He cut out the word “Départs” in a stronger Concorde, and stuck ‘‘Departures” on in black underneath. The improved legibility in comparison to Univers (# 10)
was apparent to everyone immediately. And Paul Andreu was delighted with the idea of giving the airport its own typeface.
This presentation convinced the planners in 1966, and the “airport font” was born (Image: FontShop)
When the Aéroport Charles de Gaulle
was inaugurated in March 1974, even the signage set new standards. Typographers from around the world were eager to use the typeface in their own printing. D. Stempel AG and Linotype released Frutiger
on the market in 1977. It quickly became a bestseller and was expanded several times, most recently in 1999 by Frutiger himself.
Signage at Charles de Gaulle Airport today
He spent two years on Frutiger Next
. All the characters were redigitised, though the basic forms remained almost unchanged. Only the ß symbol and ampersand were redeveloped, and s and t given a discreet facelift. The range of weights now included six instead of five stroke widths, and the addition of a true italic font completed Frutiger Next