Erik Spiekermann

by whitewirestudio

FF Unit Slab

Typographer, graphic designer and businessman Erik Spiekermann has created timeless, influential and, yes, Meta-physical work over the past three decades.

Next to founding MetaDesign and FontShop, the latter being the first ever digital distributor of fonts, and designing more instant classic typefaces than any other, he has been recognized as an outstanding expert internationally.

Listen to the design genius talk about new visual languages, design processes, the analogies of music and typography, and why we need better client culture in our latest video and you will easily realize why. Before heading to new visionary pastures, the bike enthusiast will make a short stop to receive the German Design Lifetime Achievement Award 2011 in February.

FF Meta Serif

So ironically enough, they call him a “design genius” above even though he protests the idea of the word genius in his video. But yes, I think he’s great and love hearing him talk about his fascination with the physical and visual shape of language. His correlations to music make my heart go pitter-patter… what we read is the contrast between thick/thin, black/white in letters, in words, in text… designing the silence between the characters is where the typeface actually takes form and holds a rhythm. Swoon.

Some other highlights from this 14 min piece include him talking about the inspiration/influential process of working: when he is super excited about work he sees elsewhere but can’t use for whatever reason, he’ll sit with it, will concentrate on it, draw over the type, etc. And then he’ll walk away from it and the next day will draw it from memory. What he sketches then is really different… influenced by it, but not a copy. Isn’t this how everyone else works anyway? We have a repository of everything we’ve seen in our life, and we’ll always draw from it, inadvertently or not.

He also talks about the gravity of government design. Specifically, the ultra-famous design fail of a case—the 2000 election with the Florida ballots:

Bad government forms serve to separate us from the government. They make us stupid… we don’t understand, so we do what we’re told. If things were more designed in the sense of more open, more accessible, then we would be able to communicate more with each other. […] the system doesn’t really want to communicate, because then it becomes messy and dirty. We’re supposed to shut up and make our little crosses and fill our forms and be quiet.

[on the Florida ballots] because the forms were so bad, they didn’t know where to put the bloody crosses… so they voted for an asshole. And we started a war.

Maybe a bit dramatic, Mr. Spiekermann… or… maybe not?