The FF Meta® design is a sans serif, humanist-style typeface that was designed by Erik Spiekermann for the West German Post Office (Deutsche Bundespost). It was subsequently released in 1991 by Spiekermann's company FontFont.
In early 1985, Erik Spiekermann was working for the high-end design company Sedley Place, who had offices in Berlin, Germany. Spiekermann and Sedley Place were responsible for some large scale branding and marketing exercises for well-known, multinational corporations.
The Deutsche Bundespost commissioned Sedley Place to produce a new corporate branding initiative. It called for a typeface that was easy to read in small point sizes and came out well on poor quality paper stock. The design brief included some very precise character set requirements, including that the new typeface not to be confused with one of the many variations of Helvetica. Spiekermann, with the assistance of Michael Bitter, went ahead and set about designing this new typeface. After the original design work was completed in Berlin. Gerry Barney and Mike Pratley of Sedley Place in London completed the design, producing full alphabets based on the design specifications of Spiekermann and Bitter.
Part of the original commission was to produce a typeface that could be printed almost anywhere without incurring significant extra typesetting and printing costs. With the Deutsche Bundespost being one of the largest companies in Europe, employing a staggering 500,000+ employees, this was important, as much of their printing was done by small print shops situated all over Germany. Deutsche Bundespost did not want to place financial burden on their printers. Fortunately, the Deutsche Bundespost were paying for the design of this typeface and were able distribute the font very affordably to its users.
The outcome of all this design work was a 3-weight font family available in Regular, Regular Italic and Bold. Despite the fact that the Deutsche Bundespost had spent considerable time and expense on the project, the executive management decided not to go ahead with its implementation for fear of causing too much disruption; they continued instead with their use of a variety of Helvetica fonts and FF Meta never became part of their corporate branding. (They now use Frutiger® as their corporate typeface.)
This, however, was not the end of the FF Meta story. The FF Meta typeface lay unused for a while before Spiekermann, realizing that the Deutsche Bundespost and Sedley Place would never use it, picked it up again and put some more work into developing the font family further. Having parted from Sedley Place, Spiekermann started his own company, the newly formed publishing label FSI Fontshop International.
The FF Meta family, initially released as a commercial font in 1991, now comprises over sixty fonts. The FF Meta 2 family was released in 1992, the FF Meta Plus family in 1993, and in 1998 a facelift of the complete font family reclassified the FF Meta series and combined them into family-sets named FF Meta Normal, FF Meta Book, FF Meta Medium, FF Meta Bold and FF Meta Black. These are all available in Roman, italic, small caps and italic small caps.
Between 1998 and 2005, further light stroke weights and a condensed family were introduced by Tagir Safayev and Olga Chayeva and were named: FF Meta Light and FF Meta Hairline. The last addition to the growing FF Meta font family is FF Meta Serif released by FSI in 2007.
FF Meta is commonly used in the Netherlands in signage and on a huge range of product labeling from well-known products throughout the world. From 24 variations on the FF Meta font family, the typeface has now been expanded to include over 60 fonts with a wide variation of weights and styles available.