Erik Spiekermann: Life is in Beta

Fontshop founder Erik Spiekermann treats everything as a work in progress. His work is his life. And vice versa. Spiekermann believes what you do defines who you are; they are not separate.

And while everything is in beta, we should constantly be thinking of rethinking design and redesigning thinking. But where do we start? Spiekermann proposes a series of strategies:

  1. Do nothing. Avoid the work and do anything but IT.
  2. Think. The simplest of options but however important.
  3. Research. Look at magazines. Go through books. This is another excuse to not do the work.
  4. Collect. He chooses print presses and bikes.
  5. Draw. Everybody can do it, no excuses.
  6. Take it apart. It’s the best way to learn.
    Erik Spiekermann © Dennis Letbetter

    Erik Spiekermann

    Art Historian, Information Architect, Type Designer, Author (Berlin, San Francisco, London)

    Erik Spiekermann is information architect, type designer and author. Two of his typefaces, FF Meta and ITC Officina, are considered to be modern classics. He founded MetaDesign (1979) and FontShop (1988). 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. He designed exclusive typefaces for corporations like Deutsche Bahn, Bosch, ZDF (German TV), Cisco, Mozilla and many others. Erik is Honorary Professor at the University of the Arts in Bremen and in 2003 received the Gerrit Noordzij Award from the Royal Academy in The Hague. In 2006 he was awarded an honorary doctorship from Pasadena Art Center. He was made an Honorary Royal Designer for Industry by the RSA in Britain in 2007 and Ambassador for the European Year of Creativity and Innovation by the European Union for 2009. In 2011 he received the German National Design Award for Lifetime Achievement and the TDC Medal as well as a Lifetime Award from the German Art Directors Club. He was managing partner and creative director of Edenspiekermann with offices in Berlin, Amsterdam,  San Francisco and Los Angeles until June 2014 when he moved from that position to the supervisory board. He now runs galerie p98a, an experimental letterpress workshop in Berlin. Erik splits his time between Berlin and San Francisco and London, where his son Dylan lives. A book about his life and work “Hello I am Erik” was published by Gestalten Verlag in 2014. Photo: Dennis Letbetter

And as far Spiekermann’s team’s manifesto?

  • Speed and deep are not opposites.
  • Cooperation doesn’t mean consensus.
  • Idea generation is not idea selection.
  • Failure is part of the process.
  • And everything restarts as soon as it is finished. Nothing is ever done.

He also sees a paradigm shift from corporate to social. Hierarchical and structured has become social, real-time and collaborative.

Stay lean, eliminate waste and sketch. Spiekermann believes we don’t need leaders, but moderators. We don’t need motivation but we need inspiration to do our best.

Lastly, everybody should be responsible for themselves and for others.