“I learned never to promise more than I can keep” Interview with Erik Spiekermann
If you are passionate about typography and design, there is no way around the name of Erik Spiekermann. The Berlin-based creator designed the famous classical font FF Meta and is the author of various typography literature. During his career, he worked on legendary projects like the graphic appearance of the city of Berlin, the control system of Düsseldorf Airport and the corporate design of Volkswagen and Audi.
Erik talked with us about the project he is most proud of, his favorite working tools at the moment and why the internet is not the main place to look for inspiration.
What are you proud of?
I made Berlin a better place by designing the passenger information for BVG, the Berlin traffic enterprise, back in 1990/91, after the Wall came down. Before that, all the buses, trams and trains were beige. Now they are bright yellow and the best of all is that nobody gets lost anymore.
How did you manage to lift your work in the field of visual communication from others?
No idea. I always did what I thought was the best I could. Also, I often took complex projects that were too boring for other designers.
What is the most interesting part of your work for you?
Working with other people who are smarter than me, at least in some areas.
How do you choose the projects you work on?
I am officially retired and don’t do much commercial work anymore. Therefore I ask myself the following questions. Does the world need them? Are the clients good people? Do I need the money?
What is your favorite tool right now you’re most excited about to work with?
Analog printing presses and type metal.
What do you think about the design scene? How do you manage to position your work so radically different than others?
I don’t position my work, I just do it. Clients come with a project and I decide to do it or not.
What would you consider good design?
It needs to solve the problem plus add an extra level of aesthetic pleasure.
Do you think the internet is becoming the main place to look for inspiration?
Not anymore. People are going back to meeting people and doing analog things.
Which would you consider your biggest design mistake and what did you learn from it?
This story is too long to tell, but I learned never to promise more than I can actually keep.
How important would you say is it to share thoughts on design with others?
Very important. I actually never studied design and learned everything I know from others. So I like giving back to the younger generation.
This interview got published in Forward Magazine 2018.