Erik Spiekermann calls himself an information architect. He is equally comfortable and prolific as a writer, graphic and typeface designer, but type is always at the epicenter of this communication dynamo. Even as a child, Spiekermann was drawn to the typographic arts. “I had a little printing press and taught myself to set type when I was twelve,” he recalls. “Years later, when I went to university to study art history, I made a living as a letterpress printer and hot metal typesetter.”
After college, Spiekermann spent several years as a freelance graphic designer in London. He returned to Berlin in 1979, where, together with two partners, he founded MetaDesign, Germany’s largest design firm, with offices in Berlin, London and San Francisco. The firm’s projects included work for Audi, Skoda, Volkswagen, Lexus, Heidelberg Printing, Berlin Transit, Düsseldorf Airport and many other clients. In 1988, Spiekermann started FontShop, a digital typeface foundry and distributor of fonts.
Spiekermann currently holds a professorship at the Academy of Arts in Bremen, is vice president of the German Design council, president of the International Institute of Information Design, president of the International Society of Typographic Designers and a board member of ATypI. His book, Stop Stealing Sheep, first published in 1993, has sold over 150,000 copies and is currently in its second edition. He withdrew from the management of MetaDesign in 2000 to work on a new project: The United Designers Network, a collaboration of many designers he has worked with over the years.
When it comes to the design of typefaces, Spiekermann sees himself as more of a problem solver than an artist. His process for beginning a new typeface is 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.”
Spiekermann has designed Officina and Officina Display for ITC.