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A Typeface Designed by Erik Spiekermann


I’m obviously a typeomaniac, which is an incurable if not mo

at type. I just get a total kick out of it: they are my friends. Oth

girls’ bottoms. I get kicks out of looking at type. It’s a little wo Meta Book: Italics

— erik spiekermann Meta ook: capitals

ortal disease. I can’t explain it. I just love, I just like looking

her people look at bottles of wine or whatever, or, you know,

orrying, I admit, but it’s a very nerdish thing to do. Meta Book: Roman

Meta Bold LF: Roman

The Creator

When it comes to the design of typefaces, Erik Spiekermann, born in 1947, calls himself an Spiekermann sees himself as more of a problem information architect. He is equally comfortable solver than an artist. His process for beginning and prolific as a writer, graphic and typeface a new typeface is simple and straightforward. designer, but type is always at the epicenter of “Identify a problem – like space sav- ing, bad this communication dynamo. Even as a child, paper, low resolution, on-screen use – then Spiekermann was drawn to the typographic arts. find typefaces that almost work but could be “I had a little printing press and taught myself to improved,” he explains. “Study them. Note the set type when I was twelve,” he recalls. “Years approaches and failings. Sleep on it, then start later, when I went to university to study art sketching without looking at anything else.” history, I made a living as a letterpress printer and hot metal typesetter.”


Biography Typefaces are developed over multiple drawfts. Here are some of Spiekermann’s sketches from his work process.


Meta was 4

designed to be

legible at all sizes.

unmistakable as an identity, and technologically up-to-date. The project was later canceled. The office returned to using one of its many previous typefaces, Helvetica, assuming that digital type would not catch on.

In 1989, after design software made creating new fonts more efficient, MetaDesign refined the Bundespost type- face for its own exclusive use, renaming it Meta.

Origin of the Typeface

In 1984, the German State Post Office commissioned a new, exclusive font for use on all of its printed material. The aim of the project, which began in 1985, was to develop a face that was easy to read in small sizes, available in several weights,

ABCDEFGHIJKLMN OPQRSTUVWXYZ abcdefghijklmno pqrstuvwxyz 1234567890 !@#$%^&*�?:;{} lu vwxyzw 4

Anatomy of a Letter

Cap Height





Meta capitals have flat tops, or apices.

Meta has softened, but fundamentally geometric counters.




The stems of the Meta M are slanted inwards instead of the classic vertical. This saves space and increases legibility.


The vertex extends all the way down and rests on the basline. In other typefaces, the vertex sits on the x-height


The leg of the R is curved instead of the usual straight line. This opens the counter space and softens the letter.

Q S G Finial


The tail of the Q is wavy instead of straight. This adds interest to the letter form.


The G does not have the common spur sticking out from the bowl.

Uppercase Characteristics of Meta

Characteristic angled finials appear in the uppercase E, F, G, C, S, and Z.

Lowercase Characteristics



Meta strives to achieve legiblity while taking up less room on the page. It does this by highlighting finials and ascenders, and varying the stroke weights to open the letter counters.


b k h l j The ascenders and descenders in the lowercase are slightly bent. At small scale this is useful for quickly scanning words and also gives the typeface a less rigid, friendly appearance. Meta’s curved

ascenders, descenders and stems put some room between the condensed letters and help maintain the legibility of the font.

The “y� has a unique offset junction between the leg and arm.



n m w z

Lowercase Characteristics of Meta

Other distinguishing features include the double-storied “g� that has a highly unusual open bowl

The curved motif is extended to the stems of the m, n, p, q, and u. The finials of the v, w, and y are at slight angles, though the top finial of the z is straight.

The variation in stroke weight is visible in the strokes of the m and n


ee Meta

Overall, Meta is a more condensed face than Helvetica, but has only a slightly lower x-height. . The nu- anced construction of the Meta typeface sets it apart from Helvetica’s regularized structure. Helvetica and Gill Sans do not have any of the light, openness


that is characteristic of Meta. For example, the stem of the meta ‘e’ leaves a much larger counterspace compared to helvetica and Gill Sans. In comparisson, Helvetica seems round and heavy and Gill Sans appears squat and geometric.

Helvetica Neue



Gill Sans

Helvetica Neue Regular

Helvetica nue has square dots white Meta has rounded dots.

gill sans mt regular


meta Book roman

Spiekermann Spiekermann Spiekermann

MM 11


Meta Applications

Leland M. Hill. Revival of the Fittest: Digital Versions of Classic Typefaces (New York: RC Publications), 142-143. 3 Ibid., 143, 144. 4 Ibid., 145. Sweet, Fay. MetaDesign: Design from the Word up. New York: Watson-Guptil Publications, 1999. (A&A: VNC999.6.G4 M48 1999 and Vault) Spiekermann, Erik and Ginger, E.M. Stop Stealing Sheep & Find out how Type Works. USA: Hayden, 1993. (Vault) Revival of the Fittest: Digital Versions of Classic Typefaces/essays by Carolyn Annand ... [et al.]; edited by Philip B. Meggs and Roy McKelvey, New York: RC Publications, c2000.

Biblioraphy, Available at AboutFonts/Desier Profiles/ErikSpiekermann. htm Accessed November 1, 2005

(A&A: Z250 .R45 2000) http://www.fonts. com http://www. Helvetica. Veer, Swiss Dots, 2007, DVD. FontShop International , “FF Meta in-use examples”. Accessed April 20 2013. https://www.

This book was created by Celine Bondoc for the Typography 1 class in the Communication Design major at Washington University in St. Louis. Fonts used include Helvetica Neue, Gill Sans MT Regular, Meta Book Roman 10/12 for the copy, Meta Book Italics, Meta Book Capitals, and Meta Bold LF: Roman. This book was printed on OfficeMax ColorCopy paper on an HP Color LaserJet CPw6015x.

Meta type book