Erik Spiekermann.

“Sunday morning, in my home office. Not totally in focus because it is a dark day today and I had to stop down or spend hours rigging lights.”

Erik Spiekermann was born 1947, studied History of Art and English at the Free University Berlin. He is information architect, type designer (FF Meta, ITC Officina, FF Info, FF Unit, LoType, Berliner Grotesk plus many exclusive corporate typefaces) and author of books, articles and regular columns on type, typography and other cultural issues for magazines like Blueprint in the UK and Form in Germany.

After spending the seventies in London, teaching at the LCP and working for Filmcomposition, WolffOlins and other  consultancies, he returned to Berlin in 1979 and started MetaDesign, Germany’s largest design firm with offices in Berlin, London and San Francisco. Projects included corporate design programmes for Audi, Skoda, Volkswagen, Heidelberg Printing, Berlin Transit, The City of Berlin, Duesseldorf Airport and many others. In 1988 he started FontShop, a company for production and distribution of electronic fonts. He holds an honorary professorship at the Academy of Arts in Bremen, is board member of ATypI and the German Design Council and Past President of the ISTD, International Society of Typographic Designers as well as the IIID, International Institute for Information Design. In April 2006 he received an honorary doctorship from Pasadena Art Center and is Honorary Royal Designer for Industry in Britain. In 2009, he was Ambassador for the European Year of Creativity and Innovation for the European Union.

In 2001 he redesigned The Economist magazine in London. His book for Adobe Press, “Stop Stealing Sheep” has appeared in a second edition as well as a German, a Russian and a Portuguese version. His corporate font family for Nokia was released in 2002 and a large system of exclusive typefaces for Deutsche Bahn (German Railways) was introduced in 2005. DB Type was awarded the 2006 Gold Design Award of the Federal Republic of Germany. The company’s new type system was praised as a ‘masterpiece to further information culture in Germany’ by the jury, saying that the type system enables both an ‘updated, refined brand image’ as well as ‘easier intake of information for customers, due to the different usage of the many weights, from signage to advertising.’ Its ‘excellent functionality and refined appearance are a welcome  improvement to everyday German culture’.

In 2001, Erik left MetaDesign over policy disagreements and started SpiekermannPartners with offices in Berlin, London and San Francisco. Clients include Bosch, Deutsche Bahn, The Economist, Pioneer Investment, Cisco Systems, Gravis, Messe Frankfurt, Nokia, ZDF German TV, Berlin Philharmonics, The American Academy Berlin, Tcho Chocolate San Francisco, and Birkhäuser Verlag Basel. In 2009, SpiekermannPartners merged with Eden Design in Amsterdam and the combined company is now called Edenspiekermann. Spiekermann just received the Lifetime Achievement Award for 2011 from the German Design Council, the highest design award in Germany.

First, a disclaimer, the WordPress font I’m currently using is unforgivable. It doesn’t “represent me.” Perhaps I will have to buy one of their programs.

FROM YOUR DESKS: How would you describe your own handwriting? Creatively sprawled? Print? Cursive? Care to share an  sample?

ERIK SPIEKERMANN: Cursive when I wrote long text with a fountain pen; more legible and closer to print when I write instructions for other people (which we used to do a lot before computers).

FYD: I’m a pencil snob; what do you use to sketch?

ES: Faber Castell Grip 2001 or Staedtler HB for first sketches, now and again still 2H or even 6Hfor details; thick architect pencil for roughs on thin transparent paper.

FYD: Any good type designers you like?

ES: Yes. Christian Schwartz who helped me on all the big releases and did the major work on Meta Serif, Bosch Sans and DBType, as well as Unit plus some Meta Sans versions; Kris Sowersby who did a large part of Unit Slab and Meta Serif; Ralph du Carrois who I do all the normal work with in Berlin (TERN, ZDF, Cisco et al); Lucas de Groot and Ole Schäfer who worked with me at MetaDesign on corporate type and lots of my own like Officina, Info, Transit, Meta et al; Erik van Blokland and Just van Rossum who I worked with in the early days of 1988 and who I still work with on lots of projects; Gerard Unger my most grown-up typedesigner friend; David Berlow who taught me a lot about the nasty side of type technology; Fred Smeijers who I work with on FontShop projects; Tobias Frère-Jones whose first face we published and who succeeded me as recipient of the Gerrit Noordzij Award; plus many other designers whom I’ve met over the decades – and that could be dozens. There are great talents around and as one of the older people in the business I know almost all of them and like most of them.

FYD: Obviously, you have a good eye for font. What else do you have an eye for?

ES:  Structures, how things are put together, architecture.

FYD: Do you rest on Sundays?  How do you relax?

ES: No. I relax by avoiding work.

If you don’t already: Follow @espiekermann

(Image one: Erik Spiekermann’s tabletop. Image two: Erik Spiekermann illustration by Melvin Galapon. Image three: “Sketches for DB Type” from Ping Magazine. Image Four: A sample of Erik Spiekermann’s handwriting. Image Five: Faber Castell Grip 2001 pencil. Image Six: type from FontShop).

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