Typography I – Typographer of Week 7: Erik Spiekermann


Erik Spiekermann: “You have to think of everything a little more…”

Spiekermann is a German typographer, designer and writer. He and his wife, Joan, started FontShop, the first mail-order distributor for digital fonts. His family of typefaces for Deutsche Bahn (German Railways), designed with Christian Schwartz, received a Gold Medal at the German Federal Design Prize in 2006, the highest such award in Germany. Hence more than anyone else, the Berlin communication and type designer Erik Spiekermann has shaped Germany’s visual culture.

United Designers Network was renamed after him, SpiekermannPartners merged with Dutch design agency Eden Design & Communication and continued its operations under the name Edenspiekermann. Edenspiekermann currently runs offices in Amsterdam, Berlin, Singapore, San Francisco and Los Angeles.


Specimens of typefaces by Erik Spiekermann. 1) Berliner Grotesk (original is from 1913, digitization is from c. 1978) 2) FF Meta (1991–1998) 3) ITC Officina Serif (1990) 4) ITC Officina Sans (1990)

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Spiekermann’s work in communication design has involved so many different projects: books, advertisements, posters, editorial, corporate design—“typography is the element that connects them.”

What I find interesting about Spiekermann is his devotion to clarity and grid-based design. He says that the result of the natural chaos of his mind actually causes this, “I need order. I need systems. I don’t really do anything without a design grid.” And I also think that’s the reason why the kind of fonts he designed could convey information accurately and convey it well.

I can see that Spiekermann strives to always represent content appropriately with the strong discipline and self-awareness he has. He mentioned that “a font must fit into the culture”. And as a designer, he’s done well in doing his job to bring a text to the public. It also shows Spiekermann’s sensitivity to his intended audience, the public, and viewers – the thought that he puts whilst designing something. And I, as a beginner, definitely need to start learning to do that. Also, especially the part of using a ‘design grid’ and not throwing it off like it’s unnecessary because it really is the opposite of that.

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