Ten Questions For: Erik Spiekermann
Erik Spiekerman is a designer and typographer and founder of Edenspiekermann. He also founded MetaDesign and Fontshop and his projects include a redesign of The Economist magazine and new branding for Deutsche Bahn.
When did you realise you wanted to be a designer?
When my printing press burned down in 1977 and I had no tools left.
What was your first job?
I have only been employed once (other than working during school holidays and on the side while at university). I ran a small print shop in Berlin. Originally only for six weeks while the boss was on vacation, but when he came back we had increased output and quality considerably. He let me run the place for another half-year until I decided to quit (and move to London, with my own press, which then burnt down in a railway arch in Ladbroke Grove).
How would you describe what you currently do?
I am managing partner of Edenspiekermann. I don’t run the business. I am the elder statesmen: show younger people how certain things are done, write columns and articles, talk about our work in lectures and reminisce about the old time when ‘things were done properly’.
What has been the biggest change in design since you started?
Duh. Computers, of course.
What is your favourite project, that you’ve worked on?
The redesign of The Economist, 2000. Best clients ever, the print run doubled within the first year after the relaunch and they haven’t changed anything since. Unfortunately there is no more work for me there.
What is your favourite project, that you haven’t worked on?
Signage for the German Autobahn.
What was your biggest mistake?
Parting from my partners at MetaDesign on bad terms. Lost me 20 years of work and a lot of money.
What is your greatest ambition?
To not retire, but to have my own printshop again and work with my hands.
Who is the most inspirational person you have worked with?
Michael Wolff. A nightmare to work with and a fantastic experience at the same time.
What piece of advice would you give to people starting out in design?
Learn, learn, learn. (that’s three pieces because it’s so important). And do not work for arseholes, nor with them.