This poem, by Adrian Frutiger, tells the long journey of writing, from simple drawings to the complex alphabet we use today. It shows how communication evolved over time.    

Adrian Adrian Frutiger was a highly influential Swiss typeface designer. He also designed logos, signage systems, and maps and was intensely interested in achieving balance, harmony, and a sense of order. His philosophy demonstrates a strong connection with the world of language.  

This poem describes my artistic process very well. I am creating a system of drawings that eventually can become an alphabet, a symbol, or both or none. It’s not only the creation of writing but also the technique used to “draw” the letter, the sign, or the symbol. I am just starting the process.

The first writings

From top to bottom, the hand moves.
He is no longer dedicated to combat;
tamed, she traces a tin line on the cave wall.

A straight line,
here is a trunk, a spear, the early outline of a human human.
Two, three, four straight lines,
here are hunters, a forest, the four legs of an animal.
The arm is raised and traces an arc.
Here is a weapon, a cup, or a boat.

As if by miracle, the arc turns into a circle,
and here is a fruit, the sun, or the full moon.

Birth of the first images.

From the image to the sign, the path is short.
From sign to writing, the road is long.

I is not an i
II does not constitute an n
nor III a m.

Originally, signs named objects, and then facts,
and, later, concepts.
But millennia pass
until the appearance of the signs of the alphabet.
Read millions of times,
Those signs are recorded in the collective unconscious,
like an inventory of available letters.

Adrian Frutiger