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Adrian Frutiger designed Avenir for Linotype Library in 1988. It is a typeface based on Futura, which was designed during the 1920s by Paul Renner. Frutiger had never been bappy with the cold, modern appearance of Futura, so he "humanized" it.
Avenir has no true italic styles were made though, just oblique ones. This seems in keeping with most of Frutiger's other typefaces. Avenir also has no small caps, oldstyle figure, or condensed styles. These three features may be found in the 2004 redesign of Avenir that was produced by Frutiger and Akira Kobayashi, Avenir Next.