Profile: Erik Spiekerman

Erik Spiekermann is famous for his fonts, including the seminal Meta typeface, and he is a favourite with big corporations. His latest project is for Deutsche Bahn. Richard Clayton catches up with the typographer

Erik Spiekerman

Spiekermann the rebel, who first settled in Berlin as a draft dodger in 1964, and Spiekermann the industry heavyweight, both seem delighted, but what truly animates him is talking about Metadesign. It’s an extended family from which he is partly estranged – literally, in the case of the Berlin operation (run by his ex-partner, Uli Mayer-Johanssen), where Spiekermann is ‘very much like the ex-husband who is banned’.

‘Metadesign is big and boring,’ he complains. ‘It has become like an advertising agency. Everybody wears suits and is slick and calls each other by their second names. I’ve always been a more rough-and-ready sort of outfit.’

He enjoys better relations with Metadesign in the US, sharing an office with it in San Francisco. (When in London, he has access to desk space at Applied Information Group, courtesy of Tim Fendley.) Impishly, however, he touts United Designers Network – numbering 16 in Berlin, with associates elsewhere – as ‘the real Metadesign’. Don’t expect rapid growth, but expansion is on his mind.

Given the clannish loyalty Spiekermann inspires (more than 350 people are registered with his Metadesign Reunited website, www.realmeta.com), recruitment shouldn’t be a problem. And like the guilds of yore, you can’t help thinking a master needs his apprentices as much as they need him.

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