News: Tagged as Erik Spiekermann

Featured Web FontFonts, September 2013

We go green with FF Netto, inject a bit of FF Tisa Sans for culture, and touch on the discontent with FF Meta Serif in this month’s lineup of our favourite Web FontFonts in use.

The Green Building Converter – FF Netto

FF Netto_The Green Building Converter

More than half of the world's population live in major cities. Developed by Lend Lease, The Green Building Converter is a sustainability tool that takes users on an interactive journey allowing people to navigate and learn about green building development. Daniel Utz’s clean and rounded geometric FF Netto strikes the perfect typographic balance alongside the 3D diagrammatic pictorial renders and animations throughout the site and brand identity communications.

Jüdische Kulturage – FF Tisa Sans

FF Tisa Sans_Judische Kulturtage

Last week, Berlin hosted Jüdische Kulturtage 2013 (“Jewish Culture Days”), Germany’s largest festival of Jewish art and culture. The diverse programme of culture, music and literature features the four basic weights of Mitja Miklavčič’s FF Tisa Sans for headlines through to body copy across the site as well as festival collateral.

The Great Discontent – FF Meta Serif

FF Meta Serif_The Great Discontent

Designed and curated by Ryan and Tina Essmaker of Designing Monsters, The Great Discontent is a journal of interviews focusing on creativity, risk and what connects people as artists. A simple, clean, responsive and impeccably editorially considered site, the choice to use Erik Spiekermann, Christian Schwartz and Kris Sowersby’s FF Meta Serif as body is a great complement to “The Great Discontent”. 

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At Home With: Erik Spiekermann

In our latest ‘At Home With’ series, we caught up with our founder Erik Spiekermann as he takes us through the Berlin townhouse he shares with Susanna Dulkinys and talks about printing presses, his most hated typefaces and what led him to become a typomaniac.

At Home With ErikAt Home With Erik

You have an enormous printing workshop packed with extraordinary machines and all kinds of type. Can you talk us through what you have in your workshop?

I have a small proofing press, a Korrex Nürnberg 38 by 55 cm. It prints letterpress from wood or lead type, woodcuts, polymer plates or anything higher than its surroundings. I have lots of metal and wood type, from 8 point Akzidenz Grotesk to 33 line wood type, plus all the other stuff needed to set type. And also two table-top platen presses which in German we call Boston-Pressen.

At Home With Erik

Can you recall how your interest for paper, type and the smell of (ink) color – the aphrodisiacs of printing – first came into being?

Yes. When I was around seven or eight, we had a neighbour who was a printer. I remember him showing me a piece of white paper. Then he showed me a printing forme – ­ some columns of type and all the furniture around it – which looked very complicated and messy to me: a lot of metal and ink. Then he took a proof from that forme onto the white paper, and like magic it showed only a few precise black marks, while the paper was still clean and white. Those marks were letters that I could read and the whole process was a miracle to me. That is when I fell for type and printing. Now I come back to that original technology of putting marks on paper: letterpress printing.

At Home With Erik

You had a printing workshop back in the seventies but unfortunately it caught fire. It must have been absolutely devastating … Now looking back with healed wounds: do you think there was something positive about it?

After my workshop, presses and type burnt down, I had only pencil and paper left, plus my brain and experience with type – all the tools a graphic designer needed at the time. I was forced into a career that I had no formal training for. And still don’t. But in a situation like that it didn’t matter. I just sketched type for other people to set and became knowledgable about photosetting and type design. Two years after the fire in 1977, I designed my first typeface for Berthold, LoType.

At Home With ErikAt Home With Erik

When working on a project for the press, what criteria do you have for choosing the right typeface? What are the differences with working on a computer?

If I had to print letterpress, longer text – which I would never do – but if I had to, obviously then you pick what you have and when I used to work in printing in the 60s and 70s, a printer had a certain amount of typefaces and you would pick from those. And if you didn’t have a 9 point you would pick 8 or 10 and make it fit somehow. That was both inhibiting and also at the same time ...  maybe these days, I realize how liberating it was. Lack of choice just made your day a lot shorter because you just didn’t have to think about, you just took whatever was there.

Now of course we have all these choices and I’m spending a lot of time trying to keep updated  with what’s going on and I have no hope of being updated at all ever. I have some friends, like Stephen Coles who is younger and therefore even more in touch than I am, but I call people, I ask people, I try to look at everything. When it comes to picking a typeface I still do what I always did, I look at the potential (font) size, the size of the page, the readership, the way it’s printed. Does it need to be heavy or light? Is there a lot of copy? Is it 9 and a half point, is it 10 point? And then you narrow down your choices and in the end you take something that fits the copy.

I just did a book that is kind of like a diary where somebody wrote about her parents who both lived in the 50s and 60s. So I didn’t want to use a nostalgic typeface because the 50s and 60s stuff was mostly ugly, but I didn’t want to do something that was too fashionable. Obviously it couldn’t be Bodoni or Helvetica, so I ended up using a typeface that was made for magazines/newspapers that looks fairly ordinary and has a little edge to it maybe and I picked a slightly heavy version which does exist and is not so thin on the paper. The paper is even a little yellowish, so the whole book has a slightly… not nostalgic, but period feel about it. It’s not brand new, it is not glossy white but it’s not nostalgic either. In the end it’s down to the length of copy, form and the size. I first set the book in 10 point on 14, and then it was just too long. It looked too big on the page, because of the page size given. So I went back to 9 and a half on 13, and it looked perfect. So it’s always a mix of things. There are also some faces I don’t like at all and some stuff I’ve always loved and I’m always waiting for an opportunity to use them. And luckily, this face is Lyon and I finally could use it.

At Home With Erik

Which typefaces don’t you like?

I don’t like typefaces that everybody uses. I don’t like Helvetica, because it’s boring and it’s not a typeface, it’s an attitude. Or lack of attitude. And I would never use it in a million years except romantically. Ironically, I said to my wife, that I want my tombstone  to be set in Rotis, because that would be ironic and my friends would get it. That is sort of the last word. And I don’t like mannered typefaces,  those typefaces that are designed on a principle like Avant Garde Gothic. Everything is meant to be geometric. Those don’t work. Same as Rotis. I like the ones that are a new take on an old classic. Lyon is a take on Times. Like FF Scala is a take on Garamond – it’s not a re-creation, but it’s that same kind of thinking, it has the same kind of feel, it just makes it new. Not in details, it’s not about having a triangular serif or some corners cut off – it just has a different feel to it. I like bread. And I try different breads all the time, they’re all made from wheat or rye, but they are all slightly different. You don’t know what’s different but the taste is different. I don’t care how they make it. I just like the choices. In German we call it Brotschriften – the daily bread of type.

At Home With Erik

In a lot of your projects you use your own typefaces, such as FF MetaFF Unit or FF Info. Do you sometimes miss them in your (metal) typecase? If so, do you want to do something about it?

No, I think they were made digitally and they should remain digital. It would be totally ridiculous to cast them in metal. I might have a text that would look good in one of those typefaces and then I would maybe make a polymer plate – a nyloprint as we call it in Germany. I don’t even think I’m going to print books because everybody prints books. I’m not sure what I’m going to be printing. I like bigger size stuff. It may just be words. Single letters, words. I like a poster that just says RGB – in black of course. That is some sort of stuff I want to do. I actually have a project where I want to print a series of sixty or a hundred three-letter words in English. And then you can make sentences from it. I might even do two-letter words. Or in German I might have to do twenty five-letter words, whatever. I’m just want to explore language, because if you print a word on a poster, it has a different life. It’s different from just writing on a piece of paper.  People want it to make sense. If you put twenty words in front of somebody, they try to make sense. They try to build a sentence, because that’s how we are. We want to read stuff. That interests me. Using my own type is sometimes due, because they are there, I don’t have to pay for them anymore, I get a free sample when I license them through FontFont, and I know them well and they usually work. Sometimes it’s a little embarrassing like in this case with this book. I would have never done it in one of my typefaces. It would have been quite appropriate, but it’s kind of embarrassing. Oh yeah, here is Spiekermann using his own typefaces, bla bla bla, boring boring boring. No, it wouldn’t be right, just because it’s mine. I do use them whenever it’s appropriate but not all the time. There is too much stuff out there. It’s too boring using my own stuff. 

But you have a wood type version of FF Meta, right?

Yes, a student from Vancouver cut it. There is only one letter each, so it’s going to be difficult to use it. Well, you can set “Hamburgerfonstiv” from it and some pangrams, where you have only one letter each. But I haven’t used it yet. I will do, now that I’ve got all the big machines together. I’m trying to move into a big space and then I’m going to have 5 proofing presses, or maybe 6 proofing presses. I think I’m going to get in the Guinness Book of Records for having the most proofing presses in one shop. And they are all going to be painted gray: RAL-Lichtgrau 7035, like this place.

You have a passion for numbering stamps. Can you tell us more about that?

Essentially, it is a little device that prints a number and then on the next print a plunger comes down, moves a number on a wheel and it prints the next number, so you’re numbering the prints that you do.

I like the mechanical device. It is incredibly beautiful. It has those generic numbers. It’s difficult to print because you really have to give it a lot of pressure, so the plunger goes down, and then moves to the next number. Also it means I keep track, because you always forget how many numbers you’ve printed. Was it a 110 or 120 I never know. This counts it. Also, if you’re printing letterpress, you do tend to print limited runs. And this is a good proof. Because you can’t forge that. Well, you can print 200 and then you can print 200 again, I guess. But for me it is a good reference and it’s genuine and I like the fact that it always looks a little messy. They’re very mechanic and I have 20 stamps and I’m going to buy another 20. Then I’m going to make a poster that has only 40 numbering stamps on it and they are all going to be set to a different number and they all change every time I print them, for instance, 20 to the power of 20 minus 1, which is pretty cool. So I have to print over a million posters before they repeat themselves.

At Home With Erik

The structure and layout of your house is pretty interesting and unusual for German conditions. It is rather narrow, tall and deep. Floors also separate the rooms, instead of walls. Are there any major benefits compared to living on a classical single floor layout with walls separating each area? 

No, there are only disadvantages. A quarter of the house is taken up with staircases. Its a total waste. This is the townhouse model that in Berlin we dont usually have but some planner decided that this area will be rebuilt using the townhouse model that we have in Hamburg, or Bremen, or London, or Amsterdam, but not really in Berlin. So, we got one of these spaces and built a house and its 6 and half meters wide and 13 deep, so its a double square, which is kind of nice. And there is a limit of 22 meters tall in Berlin. So we managed to squeeze 7 floors in, while youre allowed to do 5 floors, so we did 2 floors under full height, so they dont count as floors. We actually have 8 floors, if you include the cellar. So you come in on floor 1, or floor 0 as we say it in Germany; 1 and 2 are rented to an office, so it gives me some income; floor 3 is the printing press and the washing machines and the storage and stuff; floor 4 is my studio, where we are now; and floor 5 is the living room/kitchen. Floor 6 is the bedroom. There are 7 floors altogether plus the basement. Its a little wasteful but its interesting to run up and down, and its nice to have the division, so you have different kinds of spaces but its still very unpractical but kind of romantic. It is essentially a box. A Schubladenschrank, this is what this is.

At Home With Erik

You were pretty hard on Otl Aicher’s Rotis. You called it a “Kopfgeburt” – something that is born from the head and is not useful in application. Yet you actually own a Bulthaup kitchen, and funnily enough Otl Aicher was integral in shaping the design during the 80s and 90s. In your opinion was Aicher a better kitchen designer than a type designer?

Yes. Because a kitchen has a maybe romantic appeal but it is very practical. You can define the way a drawer works, where everything is. People have sort of all the same height and the same processes when you cook. You cut stuff up first, and you throw away rubbish and then you need to boil water. That is pretty obvious. Whereas a typeface is a lot more emotional. It is significant that Aicher helped to design kitchens but not design cooking. Because cooking is like designing type. The result is always different. You give the same ingredients to different people, it’ll come out different. Even if you give them the same amount of ingredients, it’ll come out different because you can cook longer or shorter, you can cut onions thick or thin, the same happens for type. It’s always A to Z but it looks different and Aicher had so much theory behind his letters  that they became very unemotional. It’s almost like you would design a lab instead of a kitchen. A kitchen has still to be a little messy and there are elements in that kitchen we did ourselves and the way it is arranged. We use the elements from Bulthaup but we arranged it ourselves. I think kitchen design and letter design can’t be compared which is the mistake that people like Aicher always made. They thought that it’s something  you can totally and utterly plan. But you can’t plan the emotional aspect of a curve or of letters when they come together. Because a letter doesn’t exist on its own. A knife does, but not a letter.

At Home With Erik

Alongside printing, you played bass in bars when you were studying. Now that you have revived your printing passion, when will we get the chance to see you performing bass on stage?

No, it won’t be bass. It’ll be guitar. I have a couple of guitars and I intend to get back into guitar playing next year when I retire. My Martin is over there and I have all the good intentions into playing guitar – and I will.

At Home With Erik

For more pictures of Erik in his home, head over to BehancePhotography by Max Zerrahn.

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TYPO Berlin highlights

Erik Spiekermann print workshopOur feet have just about touched the ground since the wonderful whirlwind that was TYPO Berlin 2013 last week. So, we thought wed share some snippets and snapshots.

Taking place over three days and reaching it's eighteenth year running, this year’s TYPO Berlin was one of the biggest yet with design superstars such as Jessica Walsh, Neville Brody, Albert-Jan Pool and Ken Garland.

This year’s conference also played host to the first ever Type Review that took place on Friday 17 May. Members of our official TypeBoard, Erik Spiekermann, Stephen Coles, Erik van Blokland, Andreas Frohloff, Jürgen Siebert and Ivo Gabrowitsch were let loose on stage to critique, commend and appraise typefaces in public. 

FontFont Type Review

FontFont Type Review We were also delighted to meet up with a number of our FontFont designers who were at TYPO Berlin.

The quality of the speakers was fantastic and highlights included Simon Manchipp and Neville Brody. There was a number of workshops to take part in, including Erik Spiekermanns print workshop and the Calligraphy and Lettering Workshop by our Head of Type, Andreas Frohloff.

If you missed out on the conference, have a peek at our Flickr profile for more visual delight, have a read about the conference on the TYPO blog and watch the videos. Designer Drinks  

 

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First ever TypeReview to take place at TYPO Berlin

Typeboard

For the first time in its history, members of the FontFont TypeBoard will be let loose on stage at TYPO Berlin to critique, commend and appraise typefaces in public. In the inaugural FontFont TypeReview, you have the chance to get your work judged by the likes of Erik Spiekermann, Erik van Blokland, Stephen Coles, Andreas Frohloff, Jürgen Siebert and Ivo Gabrowitsch.

In a fun and fast-paced hour, members of the official FontFont TypeBoard will assess and review entries. It’s a golden opportunity to gain invaluable advice, tips and feedback as to how to develop your typeface further and to hear from some typographic heroes.

So, if you are attending TYPO Berlin or are in Berlin on Friday 17 May and would like your typeface to be judged in front of a live audience, make sure you attend FontFont’s first TypeReview.

How it works

On Friday 17 May at 13.00 in the Nest at the Haus der Kulturen der Welt (House of World Cultures), Erik Spiekermann, Erik van Blokland, Stephen Coles, Andreas Frohloff, Jürgen Siebert and Ivo Gabrowitsch will take to the stage to consider, review and criticize your entry in front of an audience.

How do I enter?

If you would like for your typeface to be publically judged at TYPO Berlin, please come along to the Info Counter on Thursday 16 May with a sample/specimen of your typeface to hand it in. The FontFont TypeReview will then take place the following day, Friday 17 May at 13.00 in the Nest. Due to time constraints, although we’d love to see a full family (if you have one) you can also just enter one weight and style. 

FAQs

I’d really like to enter my typeface to FontFont TypeReview but I don’t have a ticket to TYPO, does this matter?

No, you don’t need a TYPO ticket. This session is open to everyone; just make sure you inform the door staff that you are attending FontFont’s TypeReview. 

I don’t want to enter a typeface but I’d still like to watch, is that possible?

Yes, you can still watch. As places are limited, please make sure you arrive on time.

This sounds like a great idea but I’d much prefer to submit my typeface to the official TypeBoard, how do I do so?

The official TypeBoard takes place on 15 May. All details as to how to submit your typeface can be found on our Become a FontFont Designer page.

Can I submit my typeface to the official TypeBoard AND TypeReview?

Yes, of course you can, please just inform us clearly that you would also like your submission to be considered at the TypeReview as well as TypeBoard when you send it. Please note, you will need to be able to attend on the day if you wish to enter TypeReview. All details as to how to submit your typeface to the official TypeBoard can be found on our Become a FontFont Designer page

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Talking Types Podcast now available on iTunes

Talking Types Podcast

Last year in our inaugural FontFont newsletter, we launched Talking Types – a regular podcast where we step outside our typographic box and speak to designers, makers, disrupters, and interesting types from across the world to hear their stories and discuss design.

In the first Talking Types, our founder Erik Spiekermann spoke to Hamish Muir and Paul McNeil about their newest typeface, FF ThreeSix and discussed bending the rules, geometric typefaces and the relationship between visual and transmitted language. In the second edition, we caught up with Kai Brach, founder and editor of Offscreen Magazine, to find out what it was like starting Offscreen, the lessons he learnt and hear what he does to step away from the distractions of the screen.

Subscribe now to hear all episodes and be one of the first to hear the next one.

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FontFont to sponsor TYPO San Francisco

TYPO San Franscisco

Following the phenomenal success of the first TYPO in San Francisco last year, they are back again with a star-studded speaker line-up and we are proud to be a sponsor for 2013. The stellar speaker list includes, Armin Vit, Jessi Arrington, Matthew Butterrick , Mandy Brown and Stephen Coles. A number of our FontFont Designers including, Erik Spiekermann, Nick ShinnPeter Bi’lak and Travis Kochel will also be taking to the stage.

The theme this year is Contrast and it will be held in the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts from 11-12 April 2013. Grab your ticket now and find out all about the line-up and programme.

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Erik Spiekermann breathes new life into FF Meta Correspondence

FF Meta Correspondence changes

Erik Spiekermann’s best-known face is without doubt FF Meta. Released right at the beginning of FontFont, it is still a signature typeface today. Over the past two decades. the FF Meta family has grown to become one of our most popular super families. Back in 1997, following in the footsteps of its grown up sister, we released FF Meta Correspondence, a highly versatile and usable font suitable for the business world.

Never one to rest on his laurels, Erik decided it was time to breathe new life into this underestimated family member and with our latest release FF 60, we are delighted to bring you a new and improved FF Meta Correspondence.FF Meta Correspondence

The key features of the new FF Meta Correspondence are as follows:

Robust and clear 

We’ve changed the proportions and shapes, so that the forms are clearer and the overall shapes are more robust.

We’ve also reduced the contrast of the accents and where necessary have reduced the angle of the inclination. The cedillas have been simplified to create an open form.

Simplified form

We have also simplified the forms and details and taken out the diagonals, so that the typeface is more screen-friendly.

Single-eyed ‘g’

The lowercase g has been changed to a single-eye one, which is more common within the office environment.

More icons

We have added some useful arrows, icons, and office dingbats.

The simplified forms and the high-quality screen optimization make FF Meta Correspondence a perfect typeface for use as a webfont or within the mobile environment.

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In-use: FF Kievit helps you get where you need to go

FF Kievit in use by Hofstede Design

The Endeavour Hills Shopping Centre – located outside Melbourne, Australia – implements Mike Abbink’s FF Kievit typeface family into its wayfinding and environmental graphics. Hofstede Design began work on the project in late 2006. A symbol incorporating two interlocking ‘E’s forms the central element in their flexible and wide-ranging brand identity program. We caught up with the studio to ask them a couple of questions about the project.

FF Kievit

How did you find working with the typefaces?

The brief was to develop an identity and signage system for a shopping centre on the outskirts of Melbourne. We were commissioned by the design manager who oversaw all aspects of the centre’s redevelopment. We chose FF Kievit because we needed a versatile typeface which could work both in printed material, and also on the signage component. FF Kievit has an ‘approachable’ feel, and we felt it provided just the right mix of legibility and individuality. I think there are some default choices for signage (e.g., Frutiger, Helvetica, etc), and we wanted to do something a little different as well.

On your website, you mention that you are first and foremost graphic designers. Indeed, your portfolio reflects a very considered and real approach to design. What drives your head and hand to keep your originality and inspiration flowing?

I have been working for over twenty years now. Finding inspiration and originality gets harder and harder. As a studio, we strive for individual solutions for our clients, but the reality is that nothing is truly original. We do our best.

FF Kievit and FF Info

FF Kievit is a warm, open sans serif typeface, designed by Mike Abbink and extended by Paul van der Laan. The initial work on the typeface began in 1995. After years of development, the family was first released in 2001. The letters’ proportions make the typeface ideal for use in signage systems. Like many classic faces in this category, designers have found over the years that these forms let in enough light to allow the typeface to work in small print sizes, too.

Some aspects of the Endeavour Hills Shopping Centre design system are set in another FontFont typeface with a signage pedigree of its own: FF Info. In the image above, the pictograms and the arrows come from the family’s symbol fonts FF Info Pict. These were originally designed for use in the airport at Düsseldorf, Germany.

FF Kievit and FF Info in use by Hofstede Design

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In-use: FF Unit in action at the Aviva Stadium

FF Unit

Aviva Stadium’s signage system is set in FontFont’s FF Unit typeface, designed by Erik Spiekermann and Christian Schwartz. Aviva Stadium hosts football and rugby matches, and is also a venue for concerts and other activities. Located in Dublin, Ireland, the stadium opened in 2010 and was designed by Populous in association with Scott Tallon Walker. The signage was designed by Populous Activate. We spoke with Alex Dale, a Senior Graphic Designer in their London office, to get more details about the project.

‘Before anything else, I wanted to use something that was inherently well-crafted’, Dale told us. ‘I wanted to avoid the safe signage choices, and select something a little more unusual and characterful. A unique building deserved a unique typeface. Overall, FF Unit lends itself to alphanumeric information systems – where numerals and letters are seen in isolation – for several reasons:

FF Unit in-use

‘The medium weight is the ideal boldness to reverse out of a dark background, while having all the other weights is useful for things like maps, where you need to communicate lots of different levels of information .

 

‘The default overall fit (or letterspacing) works ‘right out of the box’, in that it's relatively loose compared to some other fonts. A pet peeve of mine is typography on signage set too tight, or not attended to at all.

FF Unit Map 

‘The capitals are recognisable in isolation, which was really useful when it came to labelling the entrances. For instance, the ‘I’ has serifs top and bottom that disambiguate it from a ‘1’ or an ‘l’. Maybe not critical to the success of the system as a whole – people will find their door, eventually – but looking after these things communicates a broader concern for clarity and unambiguity. People pick up on these things and feel looked after.

 

‘The typeface includes gorgeous numerals, with tabular versions, which are ideal for setting number-heavy information. 

FF Unit

‘The alternate glyphs, which we used on the prohibited items signage, let us set nice big, heavy, imposing titles quite tightly, like a proper newspaper headline.

 

‘FF Unit has arrows for all the weights, built right in! A godsend for directional information.

 

‘The characters are fairly tall and narrow, which suited the tall, narrow proportions of the signs. We wanted to minimise the footprint of the signs themselves, because pedestrian space is always at a premium in these kind of environments, while still being readable from a good distance.’

FF Unit

FF Unit

FF Unit is the grown-up, no-nonsense sister of Spiekermann’s FF Meta typeface. FF Unit has been extended with two companion families: FF Unit Slab and FF Unit Rounded. Spiekermann himself is no stranger to signage systems. During the early-1990s, he designed the reunified Berlin’s transit system signage, which uses the FF Transit typeface. FF Info was created for a redesign at the airport in Düsseldorf.

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Spiekermann transforms Olympics typos in record-breaking time

Our founder, Erik Spiekermann tackles the typography of the Olympics with lightning speed and with the help of the Twitter community.

 

Borrowing a screen grab posted by Aegir Hallmundur, Erik spent thirty minutes on a little sketch to transform this

 

Screen grab
 
into this …
 
Erik’s sketch
 

The original design included a number of common typographic mistakes: all caps (which makes it difficult to read), spacing that was too tight, use of italic (which was confusing and redundant), artificial small caps, messy gradations and an uninspired font choice (Arial). 


Using his very own FF Unit, his quick fix improved the legibility, kerning and artificial small caps. His twitter followers then helped to finesse and finalize the picture. Together they proved what a difference good typography makes.


We love the result!

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