News: Tagged as FF Meta
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. It’s a total waste. This is the townhouse model that in Berlin we don’t 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 it’s 6 and half meters wide and 13 deep, so it’s 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 you’re allowed to do 5 floors, so we did 2 floors under full height, so they don’t 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. It’s a little wasteful but it’s interesting to run up and down, and it’s nice to have the division, so you have different kinds of spaces but it’s still very unpractical but kind of romantic. It is essentially a box. A Schubladenschrank, this is what this is.
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.
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.
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.
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.
We have also simplified the forms and details and taken out the diagonals, so that the typeface is more screen-friendly.
The lowercase g has been changed to a single-eye one, which is more common within the office environment.
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.permalink
You may have heard that our Web FontFonts are now supported by 98% of all desktop browsers. With a tantalising typographical treasure trove of 2240 Web FontFonts, it’s sometimes tricky to decide which web font is the best fit for your online brand presence. To provide a little inspiration and help you choose, we’ve brought together a selection of in-use cases of our top ten most popular web fonts that have caught our eye recently.
The marvellous FF Meta and FF Meta Serif, Erik Spiekermann’s No-Brainer, feature on this great site Parse by How. Parse is a real smörgåsbord of design content; they scour the web to bring together what they call design ‘tapas for the brain’.
One of our bestsellers and a real classic typeface, FF DIN, features on the Budget 4 Change website. The thin horizontal strokes and fluent curves of FF DIN provide a sober and solid tone to the site which is dedicated to mapping, tracking and analyzing donor government budgets against official development assistance.
Evolution, Revolution, Solution. That is the simple philosophy behind Typolution, the ‘purely’ typographical website that covers the latest developments, innovations and advancements in the industry (all in German). The site uses our very own FF Unit for the body text and FF Unit Slab for the headers, offering a cool yet disciplined tone.
The website for the VRB (Vorratsgesellschaft) organization based in Germany is set in one of the bestselling and most serious text faces, the formidable FF Scala and FF Scala Sans. The VRB offers ‘off the’ Shelf Companies and legal advice.
Two Arms Inc are a team of two, who combine illustration and design in a delightful manner. Based in Brooklyn they are famed for their passion for screenprinting. Their website employs FF Dagny, by Örjan Nordling and Göran Söderström. Great minds think alike, as we use it on our site too!
We’ve recently received some lovely examples of FontFonts in-use. Keep ’em coming! If you’ve used a FF in a recent project and you’d like to be featured on our site, please email email@example.com
It is with much anticipation and excitement that we announce our 59th release. With three brand new designs, one extension and a whole array of new Offc, Web and Pro versions of some of our classic FontFonts; FF 59 is one of our biggest releases yet.
The new designs
FF Scuba is a legible contemporary sans with a distinctive character. Searching for an offline companion for Verdana and not finding the exact tone he was looking for, designer Felix Braden set off to develop a new series of types. The resulting family is a bit tighter and more condensed than Verdana. In small sizes FF Scuba blends well with Verdana, and in display sizes it reveals its particular originality. The design combines constructed letters, like an almost rectangular o, with dynamic strokes and other elements referring to writing. This mix gives the typeface a lively touch, while still keeping true to its technical roots.
For a limited time, FF Scuba Regular is available for free download in OT and Web formats. Download it on the Goodies page.
FF Tisa Sans
FF Tisa Sans is Slovenian designer Mitja Miklavčič’s follow-up typeface to FF Tisa. Whether used together or separately, both of his families are excellent choices for branding projects and complex editorial applications. The original FF Tisa is one of the new-millennium favorites in the FontFont library—known for its sturdy and friendly forms, hence its common use in newspapers and magazines.
In all important details, FF Tisa Sans matches FF Tisa perfectly. Aside from the lack of serifs, the Sans features slightly reduced ink traps. Necessary system elements have been fine-tuned to one another, including the color density of blocks of text, the proportions of the letterforms and their distinctive stroke endings, and even the eye-catching Italics. Of course, the FF Tisa Sans character set contains the same range of characters and typographic features as the original FF Tisa, too. Since FF Tisa Sans should prove quite suitable for signage and information design projects, Miklavčič included a range of specially designed arrows in each font as well.
Designed by Travis Kochel, FF Chartwell is a fantastic typeface for creating simple graphs. Driven by the frustration of creating graphs within design applications and inspired by typefaces such as FF Beowolf and FF PicLig, Travis saw an opportunity to take advantage of OpenType technology to simplify the process.
FF Chartwell (Pies, Lines, Bars) was originally released in 2011 under the TK Type foundry. In 2012, it was added to the FontFont library with the addition of four new chart styles, the Polar Series as well as Bars Vertical.
The Polar Series (Rose, Rings, and Radar) is a set of new designs, which take on the form of more experimental charts. In an effort to make the charts smarter and more dynamic, each design reacts not only to the data entered, but the number of values.
Updated and extended FontFonts
FF Meta Serif: Light and Extra Bold
Following the Greek/Cyrillic language update to FF Meta Serif in FF 58, we’ve now added two new weights to FF Meta Serif—Light and Extra Bold.
New Pro versions
Pro FontFonts enjoy the distinction of extended language support and ease of use, affording the typographer the ability to set text in a much broader range of languages. All Pro FontFonts include Extended Latin (Central European) characters, but may additionally support Cyrillic, Greek, or other/additional scripts. The following FontFonts now include Pro language support and thus speaking 36 Latin-based languages more.
New Office and Web FontFonts
We are continually updating our library to ensure that our FontFonts are in the most up to date and useable formats. With our latest release, we’ve updated a whole host of our portfolio for the use on the web, among them classics such as FF Strada, FF Legato, FF Transit, and FF Schulbuch.
All these faces additionally come in Offc versions, fonts tuned to work best in programs like Microsoft Word or PowerPoint.permalink
Instapaper — the original ‘Read Later’ tool — allows you to save interesting webpages so that you can read them later. Instapaper cleverly strips away everything except the text offering a very clean, simple and user-friendly reading experience. The new version has been updated and optimized for the new iPad Retina display and has a range of new typefaces including our very own FF Tisa and FF Meta.
FF Tisa Mobile is one of the rising stars of our Mobile FontFonts, its proportions make it well suited to all text sizes and the low stroke contrast and dynamic forms make it a really functional screen face. We launched our Mobile FontFonts last October and have recently expanded our range so that they are now compatible on Android App platforms.
FF Meta is one of the signature typefaces of our library, released shortly after we started FontFont. It remains one of the most popular typefaces of the digital age and has expanded over the years to become a very flexible superfamily that is just as fresh as when it was first released. We created a special editable embedding license specifically for Instapaper so that they could embed FF Meta in their app.
Check out MobileFontFonts.com for our full collection of Mobile FontFonts or get in touch with us if you would like to use one of our other typefaces in your app.permalink
BERLIN, GERMANY, December 2010 – FSI FontShop International announced the latest additions to its award-winning FontFont® typeface library.
The new FontFonts
FF Basic Gothic — Due to its popularity online, Verdana has effectively become the basic sans serif. Yet in print it tends to looks too heavy and a little unwieldy. As a response to this FontFont releases FF Basic Gothic. Influenced by the early sans serif typefaces of the 19th century and developed for today’s highest standards, it is a sans serif optimized for maximum legibility. With its functional, basic look, it is willful but pleasant at the same time. Inspired by the unique letter forms of Gill Sans and Antique Olive, designers Hannes von Döhren and Livius Dietzel searched for exceptional yet legible proportions. At the same time, the letters are stripped down to their basic forms, with precise curves and straight lines, making FF Basic Gothic extremely versatile for a multitude of applications.
Their extended weight range makes it interesting for corporate designers; TYPO Berlin 2011 already trusts on FF Basic Gothic (as well as on FF Scala). The type family performs especially well in small sizes, both in print and on the screen – thanks to the hinting experts of the FontFont Type Department.read more
Typographic diversity – A new era for web design
BERLIN, GERMANY, February 2010
A more diverse and beautiful web is about to unfold. The latest release of the FontFont® typeface library marks the beginning of a new era for typography – FSI FontShop® International is introducing the first ever stand-alone FontFonts for the web. Finally web designers can use professional typefaces for their projects without relying on system fonts or webfont services. This long-awaited step enables a more seamless and effective transition from print design to the web. More than 30 of the most successful FontFont families are available now as Web FontFonts, including FF DIN®, FF Meta®, FF Dax®, and FF Kievit®. More will follow soon.
BERLIN, GERMANY, November 2009 – FSI FontShop International announced the latest additions to its award-winning FontFont® typeface library.
The new FontFonts
FF Mach™ The very first sketches of FF Mach were drawn in 2004 when a colleague who planned a new Polish magazine about culture and arts asked Łukasz Dziedzic for a logo – there was neither time nor money, so he did it quickly and for free. The logo was met with approval and Łukasz was asked for some sample covers and a few days later for the whole layout – again immediately and free of charge. Łukasz agreed with mixed feelings, thinking this might be a chance to use some of his fonts and even make a new one based on the logo and title graphics. The new font worked well but unfortunately, after the magazine failed three months later, it was never used again until Łukasz decided in 2008 to redraw all the glyphs in order to remove the traces of that speedy work, and in the end he designed a complete new type family with six weights and three widths.
FF Masala™ is as unctuous as a curry sauce with a hint of chili to add zest. Xavier Dupré’s initial idea for FF Masala was to offer a casual Sans matching FF Tartine Script. After rethinking and refining, FF Masala became a truly casual type system with three Sans weights and their Italics plus three powerful Script versions with swashes, right for logos and packaging as well as comics or children’s book covers.
BERLIN, GERMANY, July 2009 - FSI FontShop International announced the latest additions to its award-winning FontFont® typeface library.
The new FontFonts
FF Dagny™ — In 2002, the Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter (DN) changed from broadsheet to tabloid – a change that came along with a major impact on DN’s journalism, editing and design. Pangea design’s Creative Director, Örjan Nordling, had already worked with DN as a design consultant in 1996. In 2000, DN had been redesigned under the leadership of Dr. Mario Garcia. For the new design Nordling had created DN Bodoni exclusively for Dagens Nyheter. The change to tabloid called for a more compact setting and Pangea design was commissioned to produce a matching sans serif for Sweden’s largest daily newspaper. This became DN Grotesk which now has evolved into FF Dagny.
For the FontFont library Nordling and Göran Söderström made several adjustments, the contrast in stroke thickness was reduced for better legibility in small sizes and characters were redesigned together with the FontFont Type Department. The family now includes a range of consistent weights from Thin to Black making it perfect for use in body text and all kind of other applications. The name Dagny is an abbreviation of Dagens Nyheter as well as an old nordic female name meaning “new day”.
FF Duper™ — Martin Wenzel’s original idea from 1998 evolved into a kind of informal FF Profile in the end. The new FF Duper has a home-made touch, but provides of course all typographic qualities of a contemporary OpenType font. FF Duper consists of Regular, Bold, Regular Italic and Bold Italic weights, supports more than 60 languages, has several figure sets and fractions and includes alternative forms for a, g and y as well as a set of arrows, bullets and ornaments. And there is a special extra: All weights contain three versions of each glyph and via an OpenType feature the three alternatives are used in succession, treating vowels and consonents separately and recognizing even spaces between words for a lively and hand-made appearance of the typed text. Preliminary versions of the typeface have already been successful in education and school projects, but there are surely more areas where FF Duper perfectly fits in.
FF Kava™ started out as a free typeface called Kaffeesatz, published by Yanone in 2004 during the early stages of his type designing career. The bold weight was reminiscent of coffeehouse grotesk typefaces of the 1920s, while the lighter versions were supposed to bridge the gap to contemporary type design.
The current FF Kava family is a carefully revised, more rounded version of the old Kaffeesatz fonts. A black weight has been added as well as small caps and more figure sets to form now an attractive modern and soft sans serif type family.
FF Unit® Slab: When Kris Sowersby, Christian Schwartz and Erik Spiekermann were designing the parameters for FF Meta Serif, they spent quite some time on details like the thickness and the shape of the serifs – should the face veer towards a slab with blocky, heavy serifs or should it be more of a traditional book face? In the end, they went for a “normal” serif face with fairly solid serifs, but some thick-thin contrast and counters that aren’t totally parallel to the outside shape of the letters. Stronger and thus more useful than Times New Roman while not as constructed as Rockwell.read more