Category Archives: news | neuigkeiten

P98A: our new workshop and gallery

We now have two FAG proof presses, one Grafix, a Kor­rex Berlin, a Kor­rex Nürn­berg, a Kor­rex Frank­furt and a Hei­del­berger Tiegel (platen). We won’t even men­tion all the small platens in the shop. And as off last week, all the presses are up and run­ning, although the lat­est FAG needs clean­ing up and repaint­ing.
On top of that a sur­pris­ing amount of large dis­play type, made from wood or Plakadur, Berthold’s resin mate­r­ial from the 50s. And lots of lead type, old and new, includ­ing freshly cast Akzi­denz Grotesk and Block in sizes from 8 to 24 point Didot. Reglet, quads and fur­ni­ture, iron and alu­minium, are wait­ing to be sorted. A sec­ond row of cab­i­nets is on order.

Sheep book 3.0 ready

The Eng­lish ver­sion of “Stop Steal­ing Sheep and learn how to use type prop­erly” has been out for a while. Peach­pit still offer a big dis­count if you buy from them direct:

Buy at

Lots of new con­tent, new images, more pages and, of course, new fonts.



Roadmap 2013

This is the video of my con­ver­sa­tion with Jeff Veen at the Gigaom con­fer­ence in San Fran­cisco this week:

Ready to print

We will have six proof presses in the shop:
1 Kor­rex Nürn­berg 35x58, 1 Kor­rex Berlin 50x65, 1 Kor­rex Frank­furt 61x86, 1 FAG 35x58, 1 Grafix 35x58 and one more FAG com­ing next week.
The Hei­del­berg Wind­mill is wait­ing to be put together and all the type needs sort­ing.
Ready to go any day now.

4 small presses waiting for another one

4 small presses wait­ing for another one

The big Korrex is all electric. It makes noises like a battleship in action.

The big Kor­rex is all elec­tric. It makes noises like a bat­tle­ship in action.

Better screens

Dis­cussing the qual­ity of type on a smart­phone screen is dif­fi­cult with­out the actual object at hand. I posted screen­shots, but they were reduced, changed in res­o­lu­tion, uploaded and ren­dered in a browser. Far removed from the real thing.

While that remains elu­sive, here’s another try at doing our work and that of the Fire­fox OS team jus­tice. This is an attempt at upload­ing one of the screens at the same size and res­o­lu­tion it was sent to me. Who knows what Word­Press and the browsers will do to it…

Then again, if our type­face sur­vives this, it’ll be well suited for even mod­est res­o­lu­tion on a small screen. The orig­i­nal screen­shot is 320x480px at 165ppi.


Another Lifetime Achievement

It could be a sig­nal to quit: this is my fourth life­time award since the Ger­man Design Coun­cil gave me their award in 2011, fol­lowed by SoTA (Soci­ety of Typo­graphic Affi­ciona­dos) and the TDC (Type­Di­rec­tors Club New York). The Ger­man Art Direc­tors gave me their award last fri­day here in Berlin. It is a golden nail. Honi soit qui mal y pense…

Thank you.


Warning to all bike thieves!

My old Riven­dell road bike was stolen in June. I’d had it for a long time and los­ing it did hurt. I think steal­ing a bicy­cle like that is more than just a lit­tle mis­de­meanour; it is a wicked crime and shows really bad character.

The only way I could get over the loss was by going to see Bradley Woehl at the Amer­i­can Cyclery in San Fran­cisco and have him build me a new bicy­cle. The frame is made by Water­ford in Wis­con­sin, the paint job is pretty much the same as my Riven­dell and the parts are mostly Cam­pag­nola. We put 28 tyres on it, which looks less ele­gant than 23, but if you have seen the roads here in San Fran­cisco, you know that even that is too thin.

I’m pub­lish­ing a few pic­tures here as a pub­lic record. If any­body dares steal this bike, there’ll be lots of peo­ple look­ing out for it.

John Walters lauds Erik Spiekermann

John gave this short speech on the occa­sion of me receiv­ing the Life­time Achieve­ment Award from the Ger­man Design Coun­cil.

John Wal­ters

Andrej Kupetz and Erik Spiek­er­mann

When I went to Berlin a cou­ple of years ago, in prepa­ra­tion for Eye 74, our Berlin spe­cial, I kept run­ning into Erik Spiek­er­mann. Not lit­er­ally, though I did later spend a pleas­ant evening in the com­pany of Erik and his wife Susanna. But I quickly realised that I couldn’t avoid encoun­ter­ing Erik and his legacy. For a start, nearly every per­son I met had some con­nec­tion to him: either they had col­lab­o­rated with him, or worked for him, or they’d been taught or oth­er­wise encour­aged by Erik early in their career. And even peo­ple who didn’t know him very well, or who had never met him, seemed to have an opin­ion about him. They knew him as a designer, as a typog­ra­pher, as a type evan­ge­list and as a writer – chiefly on the sub­ject of typog­ra­phy, but with opin­ions about every other sub­ject: pol­i­tics, soci­ety, cul­ture, art, music and so on. Also, quite apart from all the peo­ple I met, there were traces of Erik every­where I went, on the sub­way, in the signs and the many dif­fer­ent civic and com­mer­cial pub­lic projects that bore the stamp of one of his design prac­tices, or that used one of his typefaces.

So that’s why we called the Eye 74 piece ‘Six degrees of Erik Spiek­er­mann’. We devoted a gate­fold infor­ma­tion graphic to all the con­nec­tions that he had made through­out his career, span­ning the years since 1979, when the com­pany that would become Meta was founded, to the present-day activ­i­ties of Eden­spiek­er­mann. Like Kevin Bacon, Erik seemed to con­nect any­one who was any­one in graphic design, visual com­mu­ni­ca­tion, brand­ing and typog­ra­phy. Yet if our world were Hol­ly­wood, Erik would per­haps be more like Steven Spiel­berg than an actor like Bacon.

Erik is both a gen­er­al­ist and a spe­cial­ist. The first time I ran into him, at an inter­na­tional typog­ra­phy con­fer­ence, he asked me how I could stand to be sur­rounded by so many ‘nerds’? He knows how design­ers and typog­ra­phers think, in the most minute detail, because that’s the way he thinks, too. Yet he’s man­aged to lift his head above the cubi­cle that all too often restricts the graphic design world, and look dis­pas­sion­ately at com­merce and gov­ern­ment and char­i­ties, tak­ing the time to under­stand how they think, too. I have daily rea­son to be grate­ful for Erik’s advice, since his ideas about the Rund­buero, expressed in Unit Edi­tions’ book Stu­dio Cul­ture, helped me make some changes in the way I organ­ise my own office.

William Owen described Erik (in Eye 18) as a ‘con­sum­mate plu­ral­ist’, while also tak­ing on Erik’s own def­i­n­i­tion of him­self as a ‘typo­graphic designer’, who designs ‘from the word up’, a phrase later used for a slim vol­ume on Meta’s work. William also noted that Erik ‘val­ued work of a kind he could never or would never want to do.’ But that is not sur­pris­ing. It is almost the def­i­n­i­tion of a any­one with a rounded inter­est in cul­ture and the world at large: you don’t have to sing opera to value Nixon in China, nor do you have to paint in oils to appre­ci­ate art.

I think it is Erik’s abil­ity to work and show curios­ity at both micro and macro lev­els (and all points between) that makes him a good writer, as well as a good designer. His writ­ing is clear and to the point, whether in a col­umn for Blue­print mag­a­zine or in an email con­tain­ing direc­tions to his house. Even if he had done lit­tle else, the book he wrote with E. M Gin­ger, Stop Steal­ing Sheep and Learn How Type Works, would be an inter­na­tional call­ing card of huge pro­por­tions, since it’s one of the few gen­uinely infor­ma­tive, enter­tain­ing and read­able books about type writ­ten in the past few decades.

When I first watched the DVD of Gary Hustwit’s Hel­vetica, whose extras sec­tion includes an extended inter­view with Erik, I was amused to hear him say how much he liked being an ‘unknown designer’. Today’s cer­e­mony seems an odd place to talk about Erik’s lack of recog­ni­tion. Yet he was mak­ing an impor­tant point about the role of design – graphic design, type design and typog­ra­phy in par­tic­u­lar – in civic life. As Erik explains in that doc­u­men­tary, neatly divert­ing the direc­tor from too many ques­tions about a type­face he doesn’t much care for, a nation’s cul­ture, the stuff that sur­rounds us, is made of good archi­tec­ture and build­ing, good food and cafes and sup­pos­edly nerdy things like the small type in timeta­bles for pub­lic trans­port, or the signs in sta­tions, or the lit­tle details that make your iPhone work intuitively.

Erik gets a kick out of being the unknown author behind some of this stuff, even when the money is ter­ri­ble, and he has to fight ‘the sys­tem’ – the con­ven­tional way of doing some­thing – to make things just a lit­tle bit bet­ter. Few peo­ple might notice, or remark out loud that the timetable has acquired more leg­i­ble, read­able type, or bet­ter nav­i­ga­tion, but as Erik would say, ‘That is the point.’ Many design­ers get a kick out of mak­ing things bet­ter, or find­ing a solu­tion, or being part of the team that did that, whether their name is on the fin­ished prod­uct or not. So I think we could regard this prize as one that Erik can share, just a lit­tle bit, with all the unknown design­ers out there, who play their part in mak­ing our lives bet­ter, our small print more legible.

Around the time I became edi­tor of Eye, we pub­lished an updated ver­sion of Ken Garland’s ‘First Things First’,* call­ing on design­ers to exam­ine their pri­or­i­ties. The new man­i­festo included these sen­tences: ‘Unprece­dented envi­ron­men­tal, social and cul­tural crises demand our atten­tion. Many cul­tural inter­ven­tions, social mar­ket­ing cam­paigns, books, mag­a­zines, exhi­bi­tions, edu­ca­tional tools, tele­vi­sion pro­grammes, films, char­i­ta­ble causes and other infor­ma­tion design projects urgently require our exper­tise and help.’ Erik was one of 33 design­ers who put their names to ‘First Things First 2000’, and that state­ment sounds just as rel­e­vant today – throw mobile devices and social media into the mix and it still holds good.

I agreed to come here on the strict under­stand­ing that the Design­preis would not sig­nify or her­ald any slow­ing down on Erik’s part. He still works at a furi­ous pace. He even has a proof­ing press in his house, where he’s cook­ing up plans to com­bine dig­i­tal and ana­logue, mak­ing plates with a laser cut­ter. And in addi­tion to all the usual client work, he is pub­lish­ing a series of book­lets of writ­ings that he likes, and more lit­tle red books of his own work – the thoughts of Chair­man Erik.

These thoughts are worth shar­ing. Erik is con­cerned about nerdy details, yet he loves to con­struct the big pic­ture. He’s a great advo­cate of design’s role in civilised soci­ety, all the bor­ing, behind-the-scenes stuff, but he is also quick to spot what is new and cool, and to cham­pion and men­tor young tal­ent – the new Eden­spiek­er­mann schol­ar­ship is a sig­nif­i­cant addi­tion to this aspect of Erik’s life and work. For all these rea­sons, Erik is a wor­thy recip­i­ent of what­ever awards get thrown his way – and they won’t go to his head.

By John L. Wal­ters, edi­tor, co-publisher, Eye mag­a­zine, 2011

* Pub­lished simul­ta­ne­ously with sev­eral other design mag­a­zines, includ­ing Blue­print, Form and Emi­gre, see