Erik Spiekermann is one of the most well-known and creative thinkers in design. A type, information and graphic designer by trade, he began his career teaching at the London College of Printing in the 1970s. In 1979, Spiekermann co-founded MetaDesign in Berlin, and in the 1980s, at the cusp of the PC revolution, he co-founded FontShop, a distributor of electronic fonts. He has designed fonts such as Berliner Grotesk, ITC Officina, Nokia Sans and FF Meta. He is also the co-founder of design house Edenspiekermann. He divides his time between Berlin and the Bay Area.
Erik Spiekermann has forgotten more things than most successful and creative people know in their lifetime. Now in his sixties (68), the German-born designer and typography guru remains as excited about the future as ever.
A few years ago a friend invited me to have dim sum at Hakkasan in San Francisco. The high-end Chinese spot is a particular weakness of mine, but what made the prospect even more delicious were the other guests: Erik Spiekermann and Susanna Dulkinys, his business partner who also happens to be his lovely bride.
The lunch and subsequent email exchanges led to an invitation to speak at one of my design conferences in San Francisco. Erik was interviewed by Jeff Veen, another modern-day design legend, and they ended up talking about a whole bunch of things, including why fonts on modern digital devices suck. Erik's plainspeak resonated with the audience and to date, it remains one of my most memorable moments as a conference host.
Since then we have become friends, though we don't see each other often. We have the ambient intimacy afforded by modern social platforms, with an occasional email and a rarer meal or a coffee. Last year it was on one such occasion that we ended up having this conversation. It was long, rambling and a lot of fun. I promise there will be a part two in the future!