The hidden power of typeface from design legend Erik Spiekermann


Font & typography legend Erik Spiekermann is one of our favorite people. The award-winning German designer has created volumes of typefaces and redesigned font identities for brands like The Economist and Volkswagen. This week Mozilla released the clean Fira Sans typeface made by Spiekermann, who will be a featured speaker at our annual experience design conference RoadMap (that I am co-chairing with Katie Fehrenbacher).

At RoadMap (being held on November 5th & 6th in San Francisco) Spiekermann is going to participate in a freewheeling conversation about the future of typeface, words, fonts and reading in the post-tablet age with AdaptivePath & Typekit co-founder Jeff Veen. In this video, he shares his own story, how he got involved in fonts and typography — passions that also turned into a lucrative profession.


Rick Jacobs

Some may view this as arcane, but this level of sensitivity to the value contribution of the right font seems to be a diminishing in relation to the attention paid to dimensional symbology and overbearing design system elements that often seem arbitrary and self indulgent on the part of their creator. Of course, this presents an opportunity for those willing to embrace elegantly tailored design solutions. On a related note, I just read the latest Fast Company mag which focused on Innovation by Design where they reference a recent Princeton study which showed that fonts that are more difficult to ready actually enhance retention. Interesting, and counter-counterintuitive. In other words, it makes sense after you think about it a bit. This supports an ageless concept that engaging the audience in the dialog, which in design sometimes means building in a visual disruption or visual tension, creates deeper and more emotional connections. Great stuff!

Matthew Zehner

Fonts play a huge part in establishing a brand’s identity. Like Erik said, type is an indicator of culture. So when choosing a typeface for a client, we always take into consideration the purpose and mood.. Erik also proves the importance of finding the perfect font for every brand through his work with Audi and Volkswagen.

Ryan G.

I’ve seen all his docs/work and did a large scale research project on him while studying design in college…the man understands type like no other. Wish I lived on west coast to see this!

Michel van der Sanden

I know Erik personally, and am sure he would agree that it is amazing that with telling the same story about such a peripherial subject as typography, and having hardly anyone who knows a brilliant graphic (not typographical) design by your hand, causes a whole young generation to call a ‘genius’.
He would however rightly underline that talking about type, being german and funny is an virtually unseen combination in the world.


Interesting. Was he privy /involved in the short-lived Letraset-URW merger to develop digitized fonts using IKARUS? Did the 800 fonts he started Fontshop with come from that ‘deal’?


we now live in an anti helvetica world… a world were designers are asked to be interference, not interactive designers. where the more time and the more clicks needed to “understand” an idea equals the profit for the pipe owners and adword sellers.

the time of graphic design for people, is gone. its all about the design for machines and systems.

but i doubt your conference speakers would say that in public.

Experience is just another adjective.

Om Malik


at the risk of upsetting you, but I would love to know about the cause of your cynicism — not judging, just want to understand where you are coming from.

Immanuel Nwachukwu

Yeaaa… not sure what perspective you’ve been viewing modern design at.

Ofer Joe

Very interesting, but the video kept stopping without buffering and I had to refresh the page at least 15 time just to get through the video.

Jack C

Exciting! If you haven’t seen it already, you should check out Helvetica, the film by Gary Huswit, which includes excerpts from an interview with Erik Spiekermann. Actually, the film is the first of a trilogy (Objectified and Urbanized being the other two) on design and all are worth checking out.

Julieta Berasain

Thanks Jack!
I loved the first one and I didnt know there were two more. Will check them out

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