Erik Spiekermann is a German typographer, designer and writer, also the architect behind some of the best-known branding and visual identity campaigns of the past generation.
Photo credit: Norman Posselt
“If you ever take the train in Germany, everything you read was designed by us,” Spiekermann once said about Deutsche Bahn.
Erik Spiekermann is a designer who takes his work very seriously. When he is working he takes up a very different approach compared to his own life. Outside work, he’s more carefree, he enjoys cycling, does things without a plan, and goes with the flow; but when there’s the need to be serious, he will be.
He has talked about how he is normally 5 mins late to everything, but this does not apply when he works or has meetings. In one interview he talks about the math that if he is five minutes late, and there are 12 people waiting, that’s 60 minutes wasted. And it adds up towards a waste of money. So when it comes to work, he’s always 5 mins early.
Erik talks about how not all design are timeless, they are created to cater the specific need and situation. He was once asked about his favourite font, in which he replied that it is the one that fits a purpose he needs right now. In related works, the Austrian road network typeface was one he said he never really liked. He had to do a condensed version which ruins the type design, and that was the crux of making the tools: You don’t know what people make with them. But as a designer he has to take the job, lest someone else takes it and makes it worse.
Ultimately what I admire most about Erik is how human he is. He’s not like super designer whose mindset that is completely bizarre. He understands people, and his personal philosophies are human-centric. With meetings he’s always on time. And everybody who is not drives him crazy, because it’s rude and inefficient. Being on time is a sign of civility between two people. And he is a human who understands humans.
The trio are modern artists who incorporates technology and interaction with the public to create platforms that help to strengthen their messages, which I find relevant to our topics “Interactivity” and “Hypermedia”.
Artwork project chosen – #TAKEMEANYWHERE, 2016
Every day for a month, the trio would post their current coordinates online with the hashtag #TAKEMEANYWHERE and wait to hitchhike. Whoever appears are allowed to take them to any location of their choosing. Their journey could be tracked in real time at take-me-anywhere.net during the duration of the project, while their route and destination entirely placed in the hands of the public. As Turner describes the project, “we’re all putting our trust in the collective, in the networks—they’re deciding, they’re determining what unfolds,” this project’s success falls completely in the control of the public. As an “interactive piece”, the public would be the ones that determine how the piece is formed and what the end result would be like, as the artists only follow the flow.
While this project is not directly related to “hypermedia”, the nonlinear concept could be felt in the process of creation. Hypermedia focuses on the experience being unique as the user may access the same information in various different orders, such as through a different flow of hyperlinks. In #TAKEMEANYWHERE, the trio crosses the country and encounters many people along their journey and learns more about those they came across. However, unlike a traditional experience such as watching a documentary, the experience of meeting people has the element of “entropy”, where they do not know who to expect to meet, or in what order they garner new information or content for this project. In a sense the public, while controlling how the project flows, also has the control over how linear their journey might be, or how expanse it could be. This brings us back to the consideration of “interactivity”, as this project would be incomplete without the connection with the public. Besides the control over their route, the trio also extends their experience by learning more about the people who offer them the hitchhike. As such, rather than piloting the experience, the public becomes part of the experience.
Onto the mechanic aspects, the project involves the global positioning system, which allows the trio to post their coordinates daily and keep the public aware on what is going on, how to project is working out, as viewable from the link shared above. This project uses technology to extend out reach to a large audience in an instant which allows awareness and the ability for the public to react in response. As Roy Ascott mentions, interactive art should free itself from the modernist ideal of the “perfect object”, and artwork should be responsive to the viewer rather than fixed and static. To allow such spatial difference in movement across the country (the trio resulted in Alaska), the project shows that entropy can be helpful to the project, as the lack of direction and randomness leads to unexpected encounters from the artist’s point of view, while keeping the excitement level for the public’s point of view, as they too would be interested where the trio ends up the next day.
In conclusion the trio creates less-than-conventional artworks that could result and differing outcomes and engage different emotions by how it is perceived. Depending on how art is directed, there are more methods to present it than just display in a gallery; interactive pieces can bring the public into the piece, letting them not just have unique experiences, but even alter how the piece turns out. This makes the art connected to the public in a more emotionally deep level. And being able to direct art in such a way, I would have to say Shia LaBeouf, Nastja Säde Rönkkö, and Luke Turner does their job well.
More information on the trio’s projects can be found here.