Erik Spiekermann – art historian, printer, typedesigner (Meta, Officina, Unit, Info, Fira et al) information architect, author. Founder MetaDesign ’79, FontShop ’89. Honorary Royal Designer for Industry Britain 2007. TDC Medal & National German Lifetime Achievement Award 2011, etc. Now Edenspiekermann Berlin, San Francisco, Amsterdam. Lives in Berlin, London & San Francisco.


The following is excerpted from the introduction to the monograph by Jogannes Erler.

Berlin in winter, after a long meeting at work. Erik’s apartment. I save the last notes on my laptop. For the time being we have stopped talking. Erik puts the kettle on again. I think about how the book could begin. That’s when I think of this question:

»Erik, why did you become a designer in the first place?«

Normally he would deliver a razor-sharp response, but this time he hesitates. Erik takes the teapot to the table and sits down, mulls it over a bit before answering quietly, with the hint of a question mark at the end of the sentence,

»Probably because I’m such a chatterbox?«

»A what?«, I ask him.

»Well«, says Erik, »Even as a child I used to talk all the time. I’d talk about anything I found interesting, which was just about everything. I’m very inquisitive. At home I would talk about my discoveries. I wanted to convey as precisely as possible what I thought was important. That’s how I discovered speaking. Shortly afterwards I learnt to write.«

»From speech to information to type!«

»There was a printing press in our neighborhood. I used to go there and get scrap paper to draw on. To this day I can still hear the clatter of the Heidelberg press. When I was 12 my father gave me my first case of type.«

»That’s how you got into typography.«

»Speech, type, typography. It was how I was able to describe things. At school I set the student magazine using my own lead type. After school I wanted to be a journalist, so I still wanted to report about things.«

»But you became a designer instead.«

»At first I carried on with lead type, and bought some more fonts. I got better at it, more precise. I found I could apply this experience to phototypesetting, and write instructions for typesetters. That’s how I earned my first money.«

»From a hobby to a job to a profession!«

»At some point I figured out how to get information across using typography. That’s when I started to care not only about the information itself, but the way it looked too.«

»Form took on meaning.«

»Exactly. And from there it’s only a small step to design. Communication design means designing communication. One develops information systems in order to inform, not to please. Which doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t look good anyway. Corporate design is the visual expression of identity. That’s how it all connects. That’s also the reason why I nearly always develop a corporate design from individual typefaces. Communication becomes type becomes design.«

»You are always concerned with communication.«

»I have always been, and still am, concerned with designing communication as precisely as possible. I aim to be clear, because I find there’s so much to discover and understand. Throughout my life that’s what I’ve wanted.«


The Alphabet


Creative Opportunities
  • Twitter Facebook Google+
    Tumblr Pinterest RSS

    Design Observer
    social media à la carte
  • Newsletter signup