Category Archives: type | schriften

Type for science

A message from Adam Twardoch about the forthcoming ATypI conference in Warsaw reminded me of the work we did for De Gruyter, a publisher of science books in Berlin, a few years ago. Ralph du Carrois and I designed a family of typefaces for them, each one with approx. 2500 glyphs. They are extensions of FF MetaSans and FF MetaSerif, with four weights each.

As always, our friend and typographic expert, Andreas Eigendorf, did all the quality control on the fonts and produced this “spitter”: a document with all the characters in it. I made it into a movie, which is the least painful way to see them all.

True typomaniacs will notice that quite a few characters hadn’t had their overlaps removed at the time.

From here to eternity

Our calendar will last forever, literally:

Screen Shot 2015-03-23 at 23.59.21

Each day of the week has its own page and its own typeface. All printed by hand on a Korrex proof press at Galerie P98a in Berlin by Dylan Spiekermann, Erik Spiekermann and Ferdinand Ulrich. Jan Gassel organized production and had the calendar backed with a heavy grey card and spiral bound by Ralf Fischer at Buks in Berlin. The calendar is 35×70cm, printed on 160gsm MetaPaper Rough in three colours, including white on the red cover.

Just like the animated gif below, the calendar will run forever. Or at least until we run out of Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. For those of you unable to live with English words on the wall, we can provide translations.

There are exactly 75 prints, all signed and numbered, so supplies will not last for all eternity. It sells for $/€/£ 198, including shipping, tax etc, regardless where you are. Order it by email from



Ever since I used my first numbering stamp as a schoolboy, these clever mechanical devices have fascinated me. I now print one on every piece that leaves our workshop, even though they are really difficult to print on a proof press. They require a lot of pressure and the plunger will eventually destroy the cylinder because it is much higher than type and will also print on the trip back (if you don’t understand this jargon, this may not be for you).

Which didn’t stop me from trying to build a forme with 60 of these little suckers. It’ll take a lot of arrangement, adjusting the makeready and other parameters to get them all to print fairly evenly, but I am not going to give up easily. These photos are from the first run which hasn’t yielded any presentable results so far.

The cool thing will be that every time it prints, all 60 stamps will rotate by one digit. Every print will be randomly unique.

(the two top pictures are by Max Zerrahn)
First proof

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.


Fira for Firefox OS

The UX team at Firefox has just sent me some screengrabs from their work on a smartphone using the new OS. The Fira typeface will be available under and Open Source license. The version currently on GitHub is not the final one. We made some small changes before we officially shipped our final fonts. Those should be available soon.

These are small reproductions of reproductions. The real screens are much sharper, of course.


Helvetica sucks

It really wasn’t designed for small sizes on screens. Words like milliliter can be very difficult to decipher. If you ever had to read or write a password with 1, i, l or I, you know the problem. That little comparison below is also available from the download page.

Creative block

This seems to be a “trending topic”. Just read about seven tips by Mark McGuinness to avoid Creative Block (yes, captitalized) and went on to look what I had written to Alex Cornell two years ago when he asked me “What do you do to inspire your creativity when you are in a rut?”

I sent my answer in a short email, without thinking about it too much, mentioning only six strategies. I have since added a seventh. BTW: Alex is writing a book about the topic, to be published soon by Princeton Architectural Press.

I have seven strategies for this situation:

1. Avoid
Do something else, wash the car, back-up your data, do errands…

2. Think
Sit back and think about the issue, just let your mind go…

3. Research
Look up stuff, go through your old projects, but avoid Google — it takes too long to find anything useful…

4. Collect
We all have lots of stuff; there must be something in there that is waiting to be used…

5. Sketch
Drawing is great, even if you have no talent. Just visualising the simplest things makes them come alive…

6. Deconstruct
Take the problem apart, look at the parts and then put them back together…

7. Talk
Find somebody to talk to. I cannot really think unless I talk, and as I do, ideas come up.

I have uploaded a little brochure from the series that we publish at Edenspiekermann now and again. This one features the essay by Heinrich Kleist “On the gradual completion of thoughts during speech”. The brochure has the text in German and English, and the languages start at either end of the printed piece. The PDF, therefore, needs to be turned around to read it properly in English.

Rip-off explained

MyFonts obviously have no quality control whatsoever. Or they would have noticed that the typeface they published under the name Silkstone was not only a blatant imitation of my ITC Officina, but that even the data is bad.

The copyright field in the font information shows no credit, but the perpetrator didn’t even bother to delete the date which shows when the original version was released, in this case 2003. (There have been various updates and new versions of Officina since its original release in 1989)

In order to either hide the source at least a little bit, a few letters were changed, e.g. the dot on the i was made square and the serif removed. But the j is the give-away: surely those changes should have also been applied to it as well? The same applied to the n and m. A little manipulation here, none there.

And, finally, this is how it was done: the complete font was extrapolated automatically, probably to make it look different. The result is a thinner and smaller letter (the red outline), with bad data where the automatic procedure would have required manual intervention to make it good. Obviously too much trouble for someone who’d rather pretend to be original than to actually do original work.