Erik Spiekerman Typographer

Erik Spiekerman

In his career as a designer and typographer, Erik Spiekermann created dozens of commercial typefaces (FF Meta, FF MetaSerif, ITC Officina, FF Govan, FF Info, FF Unit, LoType, Berliner Grotesk) as well as many custom typefaces for world-renowned corporations such as Audi, VW and Nokia. He also revolutionised the world of digital fonts when, together with his wife, they started FontShop—the first mail-order distributor for digital fonts. Spiekermann is an Honorary Professor at the University of the Arts in Bremen, the author of the Adobe Press title, Stop Stealing Sheep, and the originator of the colourful map for the Berlin metro system.

Over 400 people attended the event at Komedia on Tuesday 4th April at 6 pm. Many Bath Spa students who are interested in typography but also many representatives from the creative industries located all around Bath.

Apart from his formidable CV and reputation in the Graphic Design and Typography worlds he also proved to be a funny and entertaining speaker. An excellent English speaker as a result of basing himself in London for almost 10 years in the 80’s his talks are liberally sprinkled with 4 letter expletives – claiming that they mean nothing to him as English is not his first language and further that he wouldn’t even know the equivalent words in German.

His talk was loosely based around his principles for successful working interspersed with many anecdotes and experiences of working with the huge corporate clients he has worked with and for during his career.

  1. Don’t work for, or with, arseholes. He explained his view that a poor client is ultimately not worth the effort, if they want to interfere too much, not pay a decent rate for the work performed you ultimately don’t want them as clients. Similarly on your side employ the best talent and don’t tolerate sub-standard work or attitudes.
  2. The quality of the work is in the details, i.e. the original concept is relatively straightforward but its far more effort to see it eventually implemented. He spoke about working with German Railways (Deutsche Bahn) where he said it typically took 2 years to get even relatively small changes through the organisational bureaucracy and to implementation with the concept completely intact.
  3. Previous work will be used against you! Referring to work that is perhaps not your best, sometimes for reasons out of your control such as a very tight budget or an un-cooperative client. Often work done early in your career but he says you must understand that once it is out there it will be associated with you forever. Indirectly I think he was saying only ever publish work you are prepared to stand behind.
  4.  Constraints are useful and drive creativity. Eric explained that a tight brief helps to formulate ideas and narrow down choices quickly, as the challenge is not to arrive at a solution at any cost but within the constraints set by the client be that time, budget or some other factor.
  5. Use your brains but don’t forget your hands, he was referring to being a master of your craft. As in so many other disciplines practice, practice until it becomes second nature.

These days he has acquired or been given a lot of old printing presses, mainly Heidleberg models along with their analog type sets, in fact he believes he might well have the largest collection of traditional presses in Germany as he can’t bear to see these machine lost. Some are in storage but he also actively runs a traditional print shop basically for his own pleasure as he is now officially at least semi-retired from his main business.

He showed the example of the poster “Better done than Prfect” for which he had received a lot of credit.  People thought the poster very clever but he says it was driven by the fact that the particular font and size he selected only had four “e”‘s in the set and thus all had been used.

All in all a thoroughly informative and entertaining speech from a master of his craft, well worth the effort of staying late in Bath.

This entry was posted in Professional Contexts 3.

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