Univers, Linotype Univers and Univers Next

I am having some trouble discerning the better digitization of these three typefaces.

There do appear to be some differences in them, not withstanding the face that Linotype Univers and Univers Next offer a far greater number of weights than Univers, as well as the more desirable ampersand; the cut (so to speak) appears different. Both Linotype Univers and Univers Next seem to have more modulation in the strokes, and Linotype Univers 430, which I assumed to be an equivalent to Univers 55, seems, well, heavier!

Also, any idea which is closer to Frutiger's original design?

Any help appreciated.
Iain.

hrant's picture

Is there a reason to worry about what's closest to the original? Unless there's some peculiar historical consideration here why not simply choose the one you like most?

Or better yet: go with Unica. :-) If you can find it...

hhp

Iain Farnsworth's picture

Thanks hrant.
No, no peculiar historical consideration - I suppose I'm just being a little pedantic. I do prefer the ampersands of the Linotype and Next versions, and the cut feels a touch more elegant, but felt it was worth checking I wasn't flying in the face of popular typographic opinion.

Cheers,
Iain.

P.S. I'd love Unica if I could find it!

Chris Dean's picture

Sadly, my library is on the other side of the continent. I believe an older Adobe version (with the 2 digit numbering sustem — 45, 55, 65, &c) is closest.

While that may be incorrect, I do know that the oblique for the Neue Linotype version was increased by a few degrees so that the distinction between it and the roman was significantly more salient.

Celeste's picture

Linotype Univers and Univers Next have been marketed by Linotype as “closer to the original design” and endorsed as such by Adrian Frutiger himself — indeed they show some traits which were absent from the previous digital version (the ampersand, the slope of the italics, etc.).

In my opinion, the real questions are : considering that designers have for decades been using the “old” digital version, hasn’t this one become a classic in its own right ? Who can decide (Linotype ? Adrian Frutiger ?) that the “new” versions should be preferred ? And how can Linotype dare to pretend that they care about typographic quality when they have been selling for decades a version of Univers which presented “obvious flaws” (their words) — which the “new” version supposedly corrected ?

Karl Stange's picture

hasn’t this one become a classic in its own right ?

If the sole criteria for making it a classic are ubiquity and the absence of alternatives.

Who can decide (Linotype ? Adrian Frutiger ?) that the “new” versions should be preferred ?

The people that make the decision to use them, such as Iain.

And how can Linotype dare to pretend that they care about typographic quality when they have been selling for decades a version of Univers which presented “obvious flaws” (their words) — which the “new” version supposedly corrected ?

To talk about Linotype as a homogeneous entity is to ignore the incredibly talented group of designers and engineers that work there and care deeply about those differences and the importance of doing justice to a great typeface. If this were not the case, those flaws would not have been recognized and no effort would have been made to improve anything.

Celeste's picture

@ Karl Stange

Mmh… It hadn’t struck me that the work done by Willi Kunz for Columbia University School of Architecture with the “old” digital Univers, for instance, had suffered from an “absence of alternatives”.

I do agree with you, though, that the decision to use this or that version of ANY typeface is down to the users themselves — but I don’t want to underestimate the game of influences and PR played by large digital foundries towards the graphic design community either.

Finally, although I have the deepest respect for the creative people working at Linotype (the incredible Akira Kobayashi, for instance), Linotype DOES indeed present itself as a single entity (remember “Home of the Originals” ?) when dealing with the buying public. And this single entity has for years positioned itself as a haven of good typographic design while, at the same time, marketing and selling fonts that were simply not up to par.

Karl Stange's picture

Stéphane

I am not disputing that it may have established itself as a classic (and thank you for bringing Willi Kunz to my attention), merely that wide-spread usage over a long period of time does not, on its own, establish it as a classic.

Celeste's picture

This is where our opinions diverge a little bit : repeated use (in graphic design work) DOES establish a typeface as a (graphic design) classic, regardless of its inherent qualities — because it then becomes loaded with intellectual and cultural associations which make it a point of reference for subsequent uses.

Sorry, I’m afraid my poor grasp of English doesn’t allow me to make a convincing argument here (though all this is quite clear in my head, I’m apparently unable to explain it in a foreign language).

Karl Stange's picture

In which case I think the word staple would be more appropriate than classic, at least to my mind. Using your definition, something like Comic Sans (which I do not arbitrarily hate, as some do) might be considered a classic. We may simply have to agree to disagree, though I prefer your term, to diverge.

Aside from your use of all caps for emphasis, which perhaps has more to do with etiquette than language, you appear to have a fine grasp of English.

Celeste's picture

Indeed it is because I wouldn’t consider Comic Sans (or Papyrus, for that matter) as “classics” that I took care to narrow my argument to (professional) graphic design uses — as a graphic design teacher and critic, I’m particularly interested in how graphic designers (this strange tribe) envision the typographic tools they use, how they choose them, how their perception of them is informed (and by what factors). I’m deeply convinced, for instance, that certain historic, iconic and/or high-profile professional uses of certain typefaces have made them classics within the graphic design canon.

The problem I have with the latest digital versions of Univers is that they significantly differ from the one which, by virtue of its use by the likes of Willi Kunz, Angus Hyland (the “Pocket Canons” series) or Werner Jeker (and all the designers who ever worked for the Kieler Woche during the past 25 years), has become a point of reference within the collective culture of graphic design professionals. In this respect, the fact that these “new and improved” versions are supposedly closer to Adrian Frutiger’s original drawings from 1954-1957 seems irrelevant to me and doesn’t make them more vital (desirable, compulsory, etc.) than the “old” digital version.

Thank you for your support about my written English — I'll try to amend my overuse of all-caps setting, I promise.

quadibloc's picture

While Adrian Fruitger's original drawings aren't a point of reference for the ultimate readers of books or advertisements, I can indeed see people rejecting, at least in the case of Times Roman, the current digital version, as opposed to the versions by Linotype and Monotype in the hot metal era, as the "standard" that people recognize.

That the same might be true of Univers, leading to a conclusion that digital type is still in its infancy, and lacks subtle qualities of grace and beauty - or some other characteristic - generally present in the hot metal era does not strike me as wildly improbable.

The good news is that there's every chance this lack has the potential to become a "recognized quality" - there's no royal road to designing better types, but this could be something any competent type designer could learn not to overlook. (Or it could require cooperation from others, such as adding other types of curve instead of just Bézier curves to the font technology.)

Celeste's picture

— John
I agree with you that there could indeed be a consensus amongst type designers that the “old” digital version of Univers is inferior to the original metal versions (foundry type, Linotype or Monotype hot-metal) ; it doesn’t make it less iconic in graphic design culture (i. e. end-user culture), on account of the “quite-recent-but-already-classic” works I listed in my previous comments (all these works were indeed done with the “old” digital version).
Please bear in mind that I didn’t mention iconic works (by Armin Hofmann, Emil Ruder, etc.) using the original metal Univers — these works can’t be emulated anyway since the typographical material and technology they used are no longer with us.

hrant's picture

endorsed as such by Adrian Frutiger himself

Before or after his senility?

considering that designers have for decades been using the “old” digital version, hasn’t this one become a classic in its own right ?

Good point.

But guys: classic does not equate to good.

Who can decide (Linotype ? Adrian Frutiger ?) that the “new” versions should be preferred ?

As always: the individual; if only for himself.

how can Linotype dare to pretend that they care about typographic quality when they have been selling for decades a version of Univers which presented “obvious flaws” (their words) — which the “new” version supposedly corrected ?

Do you mean: How can they dare to want to make money?

Also, as Karl implies: things change.

Linotype DOES indeed present itself as a single entity

What company -that survives more than a month- doesn't? The same applies to any group of people, like a family.

the typographical material and technology they used are no longer with us.

Sure they are. Even a digitboy like me has printed in letterpress (with metal fonts, although I do prefer PPL) on occasion.

hhp

Celeste's picture

— Hrant
I mean : How can they dare to want to make money at all costs, even if it means disregarding the overall logic and integrity of the original Univers design ? The fact that the “old” digital version had its (numerous) flaws is in contradiction with Linotype’s repeated claims that they had the utmost respect for Adrian Frutiger’s work — but it hasn’t prevented this very same version to become an important part of contemporary graphic design culture.

Iain Farnsworth's picture

Celeste, it's interesting that you mention that the 'old' digital version of Univers (used well, I think, by Willi Kunz, etc.) has become the point of reference for new graphic design professionals.

Part of the motivation for asking my original question was an admiration for Otl Aicher's use of Univers in his Munich '72 work (which is on display in the café in London's Design Museum, by the way!), way before any digitized versions were to appear, and in my opinion, much more attractive than the first digital version of Univers.

Just a side point: I said in my original question that Linotype Univers 430 seems heavier than Univers 55. I meant the opposite. LT Univers 430 seems lighter. Just thought I'd correct myself.

hrant's picture

I wouldn't say it's "at all costs".
Maybe you have a fetish for the old Univers? :-)

Also, repeat: things change. This includes not only the conditions that fonts need to be used in (making them less ideal over time) but also the opinions of people who make fonts; I for one only like my most recent work (and I think this is typical of designers).

The only thing that bothers me in this sort of revisionism is using the opinions of people who can no longer think straight (as far as I've heard) as a marketing tool.

hhp

Celeste's picture

— Iain
Thank you for the tip about the Design Museum ; do you know how long will this display last ?
About the Munich Olympics : I don’t know if they used the metal or photocomposition version (you’ll probably have to ask Ian McLaren, who was on Aicher’s team at the time, for that).

— Hrant
I can assure you I have no fetish for the “old” digital Univers ; I just have serious qualms about PR doublespeak when it comes to cultural artefacts such as typefaces.

hrant's picture

Good to hear that. Me too.

hhp

Celeste's picture

Although — they’ve always seemed so convinced of their own probity and trustworthiness, maybe it was plain Orwellian “Doublethink” after all ?

Iain Farnsworth's picture

- Celeste
The Munich '72 display is part of the 'Designed to win' exhibition showing until the 18th November.
There are only a limited number of Aicher's posters in the café. 6, I think. I don't know how many are in the exhibition, as I haven't attended it yet. Soon though...

Celeste's picture

— Iain
OK, thank you very much. I’m in London next week, I’ll make a quick stop at the DM.

— Hrant
Sorry for asking, but what’s PPL ?

Té Rowan's picture

Linotype increased Univers's lean/obliqueness? So it isn't Frutiger's fault that the oblique feels to me like it's about to follow the Lorella and the Roderigo to the bottom, then?

Celeste's picture

It’s the other way round — the original slope (16°) had been decreased (to 12°) in the first digital version. The “new” Linotype Univers reinstated the 16° slope for the sake of authenticity (or so they say).

hrant's picture

If you have to lean an Italic that much to make it stand out enough, you're really not dealing with a text face to begin with which makes an Italic having to stand out moot! Not to mention ugly (which is anathema to a display face). To me a 16 degree slant smells like a rotting Louis XVI outfit.

PPL:
http://bielerpressxi.blogspot.com/2008/05/photopolymer-platemaking-servi...
http://order.nagraph.com/media/products/negandplate.jpg

hhp

Celeste's picture

— Hrant
OK. I know the technology quite well (I used it a number of times), I didn’t know the English acronym. Thank you.

Nick Shinn's picture

Original instruments, anyone?

hrant's picture

But the original ears are long deaf.

hhp

Celeste's picture

Sorry, guys — I’m sure it’s hilarious, but as a foreigner I didn’t get that one.

hrant's picture

I'm not sure I did either - I'm just... playing along. :-)

hhp

quadibloc's picture

@Celeste:
I won't comment on whatever the joke may have been intended to be, but the context is:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JvNQLJ1_HQ0

While those who listened to Baroque music when it was new are long dead, however, I still have the same eyes I used to read with before they had laser printers.

Té Rowan's picture

Si... si... sixteen-degree slope?!? That's so far into OTT (Over-The-Top), I can't come up with a joke about it!

For non-googlers' information, Lorella and Roderigo were trawlers from Hull, England. Both heeled over and sank 'with man and mouse' due to overicing and wind in January 1955.

Chris Dean's picture

Just ask Adrian. Done.

Bert Vanderveen's picture

The original design of Univers was done within the limitations of the requirements of photographic typesetting AND lead, in other words: a combination of two specs (esp in the field of units per em). The new version is free of this limitation and thus superior.

And on another note: when the original creator (Frutiger) considers the later version better, it IS better. (And if you think he’s wrong, draw your own.)

hrant's picture

You guys have heard about aging, right?

hhp

Nick Shinn's picture

I’ve updated several of my earlier digital typefaces to OpenType, after over a decade.
It’s always hard to get back in the zone.
In some cases, I think the new version is better than the old.
In others, not really.
As we often say in matters of type, it depends…
Anyway, it doesn’t matter what the designer thinks, our taste and opinions are not the same as those of type users, even when we like the same thing, which can be for quite different reasons.

Iain Farnsworth's picture

-hrant
Do you think that when Linotype and Frutiger redrew Univers in '97 (for Linotype Univers), they didn't do as good a job as they could have done? (possibly due to Frutigers age?)

-Nick
I think that authenticity is an important consideration when dealing with type, especially when we're dealing with typefaces that have made the transition from hot metal, etc. to digital. When I buy fonts, I'd like to think I'm getting what the type designer intended, rather than a compromise solution. I concede though that this could reach the level of pedantry, and that it's perfectly possible that an historically inaccurate reversion could be as beautiful. I dare say I prefer Bach on modern instruments.

Nick Shinn's picture

For his violin work, you will probably end up listening to a centuries-old Stradivarius, if you’re listening to a top contemporary performer.

hrant's picture

Iain, I can't pretend to having paid nearly enough attention to be able to discern the relative merits of the various cuts of Univers (and I suspect Frutiger was still pretty much entirely cognizant in 1997). I've most been making general observations here (except for my specific opinion about Italic slant).

I'd like to think I'm getting what the type designer intended, rather than a compromise solution.

Well, that's nice. Really. But do note that type designers compromise "internally" as well. And quite often a type designer can greatly refine his work thanks to guidance from a font house.

hhp

Rob O. Font's picture

And there were limits on kerning that limited italic angle.

No one, is, or was, trying to do anything but their best.

hrant's picture

But from what I understand the original metal was 16 degrees, no?

hhp

Chris Dean's picture

@Bert Vanderveen: “…when the original creator (Frutiger) considers the later version better, it IS better.”

Source please?

Celeste's picture

— Chris
A valuable source for Adrian Frutiger’s opinions about his own typefaces (in their past and current versions) is this book http://www.amazon.com/Adrian-Frutiger-Typefaces-Complete-Works/dp/3764385812/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1349333810&sr=8-1&keywords=Frutiger (everything you ever wanted to know about Frutiger’s typographic designs, including the bits you never cared about). But maybe Bert knows about other sources.

— Nick

Anyway, it doesn’t matter what the designer thinks, our taste and opinions are not the same as those of type users, even when we like the same thing, which can be for quite different reasons.

My point exactly : as a contemporary graphic designer, with a graphic design culture
(i. e. made of graphic design artefacts designed with specific versions of specific typefaces), I still think the “old” digital version of Univers has its own merits, on account of the valuable work done with it during the past 25 years by a number of estimable graphic designers (another example ? Pierre Mendell’s unforgettable posters for the Bayerische Staatsoper).

— Hrant
Univers was originally designed for the Lumitype phototypesetting system (which Deberny & Peignot had financed), which could easily accomodate the 16° slope. Things got tricky when the rights were sold to other foundries or manufacturers of typesetting equipment with different technical limits : the slope was changed to 12° to make Univers available on Linotype’s Linofilm machine, for instance.

Chris Dean's picture

@Celeste: My question was to burt. I am asking for his primary source, something published with a proper citation and reference, to support his claim “when the original creator (Frutiger) considers the later version better, it IS better.”

Without a proper reference, the quote is purely anecdotal.

Rob O. Font's picture

"But from what I understand the original metal was 16 degrees, no?"

But type technology is not like the grade school pictures of the ascent from ape to man.

Celeste's picture

— Chris
Sorry for the misunderstanding on my part — some things are just way too subtle for me and my crappy English.

— Bert

The original design of Univers was done within the limitations of the requirements of photographic typesetting AND lead, in other words: a combination of two specs (esp in the field of units per em). The new version is free of this limitation and thus superior.

I’m afraid I have to disagree with you on this one : if the technical limitations you’re referring to have informed the original design in a significant way, getting rid of them cannot lead to a better design (only to a different one) — think Sabon, for example.

Bert Vanderveen's picture

@Celeste: Limitations like having the same widths for a glyph in roman and italic (due to Linotype system requirements), viz this info re good old Helvetica vs the Neue Haas Grotesk digitization by FontBureau (halfway down page): http://www.fontbureau.com/NHG/history/
BTW: The original digital Sabon was terrible.

@Chris: I have to change my evaluation: AF was talking about the 1994 edition by Linotype, called Linotype Univers — he remarks upon that in the book Celeste mentions (page 102-103, English-language edition): “The new Linotype Univers is, on the whole, better than most other version […].” *
In contemporary marketing material for the launch of the Next version it is stated that its design is based on the original drawings by AF, as on the Linotype website: http://www.linotype.com/1813-15545/whyanewunivers.html : “By following Frutiger’s original designs, the humanist character of the sanserif Univers now comes through more distinctly.”

(* In the same part of the book AF states that the best Univers remains the hot metal cast by Deberny & Peignot (p. 97).)

hrant's picture

the best Univers remains the hot metal cast by Deberny & Peignot

If that's true it means Linotype sucks at making digital fonts. Luckily for -virtually- everybody it can't be true (beyond the need for cloying nostalgia).

hhp

Iain Farnsworth's picture

Sadly, I fear that one of the chief determining factors in deciding which digital Univers to use would be the price. Both Linotype Univers and Univers Next are over twice the price of the 'old' Univers.
If you wanted to use more than a few weights, this could become quite expensive. Especially if you're a poor designer, with barely a pot to p*** in.

Like me.

There's always Christmas and birthdays, I suppose.

Celeste's picture

— Bert
The limitations introduced by duplexed Linotype matrices were indeed integral parts of the design program for numerous historically important 20th-century typefaces (all the newspaper faces designed under Chauncey H. Griffith, or Dwiggins’ Electra) — remove these limitations and what you have is another typeface (which you’re free to find more beautiful, but not better from a design point of view).

The original digital Sabon followed very closely the version designed by Jan Tschichold to conform to both Linotype and Monotype technical limitations — and that was, in my opinion, a perfectly valid choice when it comes to the integrity of this landmark of type design history.

— Iain
Don’t try to ask digital typefaces for Christmas or birthday gifts — people will look at you funny. I know it, I’ve tried it once — “What do you mean, you’d like FF Legato as a present for your 35th birthday ?” (yelled my mother in disbelief).

hrant's picture

not better from a design point of view

?
How could the removal of an arbitrary constraint not open the way to a better result?

The original digital Sabon ....

If the digital revival matched the metrics of the metal original simply so that people could recreate matching compositions, that's not bad; but if it did that out of laziness or incompetence or simply due to a misplaced reverence for a technically handicapped design (a handicap that no longer makes sense), that sucks.

hhp

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