Typographer profile: Erik Spiekermann

Erik Spiekermann is a typomaniac who was commissioned to create the latest redesign of The Economist. A look at his vision, work and typographic understanding would prove to be a useful research before defining the brief and starting work.

  I have been suf­fer­ing from Typo­ma­nia all my life, a sick­ness that is incur­able but not lethal. The Spiekerblog reflects the fact that I see most things from a typo­graphic perspective.

  As most of what we find out about comes to us by typo­graphic media – i.e. vis­i­ble lan­guage – any­thing and every­thing may be reported.

Erik Spiek­er­mann, Decem­ber 2008

Erik Spiekermann is information architect, type designer and author of books and articles on type and typography. Two of his typefaces, FF Meta and ITC Officina, are considered to be modern classics. In 1979 he founded MetaDesign and in 1989 FontShop. He is behind the design of well-know brands such as Audi, Bosch, VW, German Railways and Heidelberg Printing, among others; information systems for Berlin Transit and Düsseldorf Airport and for publications like The Economist. The family of typefaces he designed with Christian Schwartz for DB German Railways got the Gold Medal in the German Design Awards 2007

This article on his blog discusses why Spiekermann’s redesign of the magazine is increasing the magazine’s redearship.

Why The Economist is thriving

Mag­a­zines and news­pa­pers are suf­fer­ing, every­where. Every­where? Appar­ently, one of them is doing extremely well: The Econ­o­mist. Michael Hirschorn argues in this arti­cle in The Atlantic that is has to do with their atti­tude, style of writ­ing, care­ful research – in other words qual­ity. In Hirschorn’s words, The Econ­o­mist may be proof for the fact that »although dig­i­tal media is clearly sup­plant­ing every­thing ana­log, dig­i­tal will not nec­es­sar­ily destroy ana­log. A bet­ter word might be dis­place.«.

Hirschorn does not men­tion design, so I’ll have to do that. As I wrote in Jan­u­ary 2007 in this very blog on the occa­sion of the pub­li­ca­tion of ITC Offic­ina Dis­play, I was respon­si­ble for the redesign of The Econ­o­mist in May 2001.

As seen here, we touched every­thing, includ­ing the text face. It was set smaller in the new ver­sion, but the client always thought we’d increased the type size, because it appeared big­ger on the page. The images below show two typ­i­cal spreads, one before, when the news­pa­per was printed black and white with a bit of red only, and one after, when we had gone to full colour. While I am very pleased that our design held up so well, I think that every pub­li­ca­tion needs its design eval­u­ated every six or so years. It’s been eight years already for The Econ­o­mist. Is any­body read­ing my blog in St. James’s Street?


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