3000 word essay

May 17, 2014 § Leave a comment

Gerardas Kupciunas, 1368058019

TFD1065 Design Practice in Context

15th of March


Erik Spiekermann


Typography is probably one of the most popular and constantly used forms of art nowadays. It’s the technique of arranging letters, their structure, word frequencies, phonetic constructs, custom shapes, style and colour. The most common users of typography are graphic designers, art directors, writers, graffiti artists and even regular people who enjoy crafting artistic type for their own personal pleasure and not for some sorts of marketing purposes.

The practice of typography is very broad as well. In modern times, this technique is often being used in films, television, various online broadcasts to add more emotion to the viewers. In common typography, the goal is usually to produce clarity and transparency that would be acceptable to a wider range of readers. This form of type could be found in newspapers, books and other forms of journal media – clear, simple and straight to the point. Another closely related craft is type design – the art of creating custom shapes, colour and texture. This technique is constantly being used in the advertising. Designers use typography to create a specific theme or mood for their posters, flyers and commercials. For example, it’s common knowledge that by using bold, large text it is easier to convey a particular message to the reader. It’s often used to draw attention to a particular point in an advertisement, combined with efficient use of colour, shapes and images.

Erik Spiekermann is a German typographer, designer, writer and an honorary professor at the University of the Arts Bremen. He was born in Stadthagen, Lower Saxony on the 30th of May 1947. After he finished his studies of art history at the Berlin’s Free University, he worked as a freelance graphic designer in London.  When he returned to Berlin in 1979, Erik, together with his two colleagues Uli Mayer-Johanssen and Hans Ch. Krüger founded their first global design consultancy and named it MetaDesign. It covered brand, communication and complex corporate design systems for well know firms like Audi, Volkswagen, BVG, the Düsseldorf Airport and others.  Over time, the company had over 330 employees and offices across Berlin, Hamburg Beijing, Zurich and even San Francisco. Unfortunately, due to policy disagreements, Spiekermann left MetaDesign in 2001.

In 1989, Erik and his wife Joan founded FontShop – the first font reselling company in digital type history. It was licensed by FontShop International, a large type foundry and the licensor of four independent FontShops in Germany, Austria, Benelux and the USA. The company remains successful till this day and has made a huge profit over the years.

Throughout his career, Erik Spiekermann received many awards and was honoured on many occasions due to his influence on society and general success with inspiring people by sharing his ideas artwork with the world. In April 2006, he was awarded with an Honorary Doctorship by the Art Centre College of Design for his contribution to design. Later that year, his typefaces for German Railways, designed together with Christian Schwartz, was awarded with a Gold Medal, considered to be the most prestigious award in Germany and he was the first designer elected into the European Design Awards Hall of Fame in May 2007.

There is no doubt that Erik Spiekermann is a man of great innovation and talent. Not only is this man an experienced artist with worldwide achievements in his arsenal, but he also had a huge impact on the society with his work. Spiekermann gave inspiration to people like me, interested in typography and even other forms of art. He is always giving away interviews for magazines or articles on the internet, he blogs online all the time and gives away free lectures in universities all around the world. This is why I find Erik Spiekermann as one of the greatest, most influential and innovative typographers of the 21st century.


Erik Spiekermann has spent decades creating new typefaces, redesigning and improving them. Because of people like him, typography continued to improve both subtly and powerfully. Throughout the years, Erik has crafted lots of iconic, well know typographical work (i.e. ITC Officinal, FF Info, FF Unit, LoType, Berliner Grotesk and many corporate typefaces), wrote many books, co-operating with other designers and artists (i.e. Design is a Job, Stop Stealing Sheep & Find Out How Type Works, FontBook and others). He kept the art form fresh all the time and always reveal new tricks or methods for other typographers worldwide. These selfless acts helped Erik become the very respectable and an honourable man we know today.

Spiekermann calls himself a ‘typoholic’, though being a writer and a graphic designer as well. Typography has always been the most interesting and passion driven form of art, design and communication to him ever since his childhood. When designing typefaces, Erik imagines himself as more of a problem solver than an artist. His process for beginning and designing typographical work is usually simple and straightforward. ‘Identify a problem – like space saving, bad paper, low resolution, on-screen use – then find typefaces that almost work but could be improved,’ he explains. ‘Study them. Note the approaches and failings. Sleep on it, then start sketching without looking at anything else.’

It was not long before computer technologies evolved and loads of type design software appeared. This global innovation enhanced and improved the way typography and fonts were produced. Erik Spiekermann was one of those people who made that happen. With all the changes and improvements happening in the type world, Erik came up with a lot of new, fresh ideas. Here are just some of the examples of Spiekermanns type ideas and improvements.

First of all, Erik Spiekermann gave the idea of using italics instead of  capital letters to accentuate words in a running copy or using proper small caps if they have to be organised in that way. Secondly, lining figures were originally designed for all capital letters, while the lowercase figures blended better with the rest of the text. Although they fit in text very nicely, the fact that each of the figures had individual widths, meaning they were not able to sit directly underneath each other in columns was the only disadvantage.  Finally, he inspires people to use ragged-right composition and bullets or cantered points instead of hyphens. That way the word spaces have some more width to make it easier to read.

There probably are many more interesting ideas flowing around Erik Spiekermanns head that are still not revealed to us. Not yet at least. Although the arsenal of experience gained and work produced by this typographer is incredibly vast, he still claims that there is a lot more he wants to learn. ‘My head is empty’- Erik explains in his interviews.

In general, this great man thought us that typography and other forms of art are timeless, always changing, adapting and there will always be room for fresh ideas. There simply are no limits to our creativity. Erik Spiekermann inspires each and every one of us to dig deep into our minds as unleash the creativity, reveal and share our artistic thinking and creative ideas with the entire world.


The majority of Erik Spiekermanns typographical work consists of his wide collection of font families. Well known typefaces like FF Unit, LoType, Berliner Grotesk and FF Info are his creations, all professional, unique and being used by a huge portion of people all around the world. Off course, not all fonts are equally popular and it’s impossible for them all to be successful as well. Here are some of the best typeface samples, created by Erik Spiekermann himself.

FF Meta is a humanist sans-serif typeface family that has been released through FontFont library in 1991. This font was so successful and well received that it was called the Helvetica of the 1990s. FF Meta has been used in various companies, organisations and corporations for signatures, their logos. For example, FF Meta was used in The Weather Channel and the Fort Wayne International Airport. It is possible to spot the usage of this font for the public eye. This typeface has lower case round dots over the letters, a double-storey ‘a’ and not fully closed bottom loop in binocular ‘g’. The upper case dropped horizontal element on ‘A’.

Originally, FF Meta was started to be developed in February 1985. At that time, the public needed a new more legible, neutral, space-saving typeface that could have been printed quickly on poor paper stock, produce unmistakable letters and off course, had two different weights. Although typefaces were usually designed for the larger view, the goal here was completely opposite. The font needed to be used repeatedly in small sizes and FF Meta perfected almost every aspect that was required.

After a long research on six font families, the new font FF Meta began to take shape. The typeface had to be a sans-serif to match the clients. FF Meta also featured thick strokes that were not only able to withstand uneven printing but also separate individual characters. The letters also contained clearly distinguishable characters for similar shapes, curves, indentations, flares, and open joins to combat poor definition, optical illusions, and over-inking. Additionally, the font family also contained three font styles: regular, regular italic, and bold. Finally, the font was also introduced to the digital type world over the years and is being used by various clients and companies till this day.

In short, FF Meta was one of the most favourite typefaces ever created. It was solid, clean, reliable, and yet still modern and lively. That made the typeface very universal and usable by large number of people. However, it always did need a serif complement, something with the same colour and characteristics.

Meta Serif is another popular typeface by Erik Spiekermann. This one does not only carry all the characteristics of Meta – modern, solid and clean, but offers people a new way of verve, expressiveness, and a sense of energy. Meta Serif is also flexible and appears especially readable on book faces.

Meta Serif is commonly being used by book, magazine designers for cover and even content pages. This is one of my personal favourite typefaces by Erik Spiekermann and there are many more out there crafter for whatever the reason may be.

This is why typography is such a perspective form of art. It can appeal to everybody with the gigantic selection of fonts and other typefaces out there. Advertisers use type, writers us type, artists use type, and everybody understands letters in so many different ways. It is amazing how one work can be understood in a unique way by different people. This is why typography is such a successful and innovative form of art.


Besides giving interviews, lectures in universities and creating type, Erik Spiekermann has also written lots of books, co-operating with other fellow designers, and on his own as well. Each and every one of them are completely different and cover a wide range of aspects in art and design, yet all of them concentrate on one thing – typography. Almost all the books are pretty successful and are filled with information that is considered relevant and inspiring for designers and typographers till this day. Here are a few of the most popular and best rated typography books by Erik Spiekermann.

Stop Stealing Sheep & Find Out How Type Works is a classic book, written by Erik Spiekermann and first published in 1993. Throughout the years, it has been updated with new typefaces, fonts, and illustrations. The content in this book generally explains in dept what typography is and offers guidance for people in choosing a font for different purposes. Not only does this book cover all the aspects of typography, but the history and mechanics of it as well. Generally, it gives the reader the right information how to choose the best font, gives space and layout advice and tips to improve communication overall.

The book itself is like a guide to typography. The content also includes over 200 illustrations and photographs of typographical examples and experimentations with various techniques. Because of the fact that it has been updated several times, web typography and other forms of online text display are involved there as well.

In short, Stop Stealing Sheep & Find Out How Type Works is a must-read book for anyone interested in typography. It reads easily, has clear content with visual examples and provides us with information needed to start producing professional type work.

Design Is A Job is another wonderful book, written and released by Mike Monteiro and Erik Spiekermann. From producing, working with clients to selling design, this book is packed with tons of knowledge and information that covers all the paths to typographical success. It doesn’t matter if you are involved in an art project, working for a company or on your own, the content in this book can be applicable and critically useful to all.

Personally, I found it poignant, incisive and pact with lots of important advice for graphic design practitioners. Unlike many other industrial publications, this books content is not designed in a ‘how-to’ context. Design Is a Job is a different kind of book. For example, when covering the selling section, it concentrates more on facts like how you should actually sell your work instead of focusing on why your client need it.

Despite living in a temporary industry, where relevant subjects today may be irrelevant tomorrow, Design Is A Job can be called “timeless”. Most of the other books, especially the ones covering web design, go out of date after a few years after its release. This books content is so well-written, that the advice given in it is more general and, for example, not to reliant on technologies of that time. That makes it less likely for the information to go out of date and shows that ideas can remain long and keep on improving and not being forgotten.

This is why I personally look up to the writers of this book. Design Is a Job is gifts to all of the people, desperate on making a living with design. With the help of the timeless knowledge stored in those pages, this can be achieved by anybody. Passion and dedication for typography is all that it takes.


To sum up, typography is power. It is the ability to express words and ideas visually. It is timeless, yet always changing. There’s no doubt that without letters, there would be no knowledge, no signs and no history. These are just a few of the facts which make typography so incredible. Not only does it inspire people to look deeper into visual communication, but also help us develop our own ways of expressing ideas, creativity and unique use of type in our everyday life.

But the question remains, what makes this form of art so incredible? Who is responsible for all the positive impact it had on all of us? I strongly believe that people like Erik Spiekermann are the main the reasons why the art form, known as typography, even exist. Because of the hard work these passionate typographers like Erik produce, the effort they put into revealing and explaining the ideas behind letters to different people worldwide throughout lectures, giving away interviews for the media or blogging on the internet, the legacy of typography is building up for the future generations. Even with all the changes happening in our society, like the advancement in technology, Erik Spiekermann and other honourable typographers helps this art form adapt and use those changes to generate fresh ideas for the usage of type, create new, inspirational work and find more ways on improve the way people understand and approach this form of art. Because of these ongoing changes and adaptation, it’s no surprise that we live in a post-postmodern society – a world of innovation, ideas and changes.

If it wasn’t for people like Erik Spiekermann, there would probably be no legacy of typography and letters would have a limited meaning to the general public. This is why I strongly believe that Erik Spiekermann is one of the greatest, most influential and innovative typographers of the 21st century.



Stop Stealing Sheep & Find Out How Type Works by Erik Spiekermann and E.M. Ginger

Design Is a Job by Mike Monteiro, Erik Spiekermann.




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