Erik Spiekermann

Page 1

Graphic Design




Cover: Erik Illustration by Christoph Niemann



Before we start I have to admit that I don’t even know how to pronounce the a-word. So Erik politely describes the subtle differences between the British “arse” and the American “ass”. Lovely introduction – to an AWKWARD, nevertheless important issue.

HWT ARTZ HWT Artz Regular Released 2014


UNIT Q: Unit Medium · A: Unit Light Released 2006

Erik, why did you choose this topic now? Because people don’t want to hear about projects any more from an old guy like me. They want general advice, experience maybe. And this topic – well: It’s about attitude.

BERLINER GROTESK Q: Berliner Grotesk Light · A: Berliner Grotesk Medium Released 2006

So what is worse: to work for arseholes or to work with arseholes? With arseholes, of course, is much worse. Because then it is very difficult to avoid them. You spend all day with them. It’s in your atmosphere, you can feel it, it’s in your mood. They can be clients as well, of course. Sometimes you don’t know it at the beginning, and sometimes you do a job because you have to, and it can be very hard if a client turns out to be an asshole. It basically means people that don’t treat us properly.

LOTYPE LoType Roman Released 1980

Everybody can learn shit but you don’t learn attitude.

Do you see it in the results of somebody’s work if they had to work for or with arseholes?

GOVAN Q: Govan Condensed · A: Govan Regular Released 2001

Of course you do. It shows in the work if you didn’t like doing it. It always gets dull and … you know … [makes a noise of disgust, then laughs]. I can only say this in German, “aus einem traurigen Arsch kommt niemals ein fröhlicher Furz”, by Martin Luther, how to say it, well: a sad arse will never utter a cheerful fart [laughs again]. Or deal with it like Queen Victoria: Lay back and think of England. Lay back and think of Edenspiekermann [with a shrug]. Of course it’s hard sometimes. We designers want to make the world a little bit better, if only a little, little tiny bit. Most people in the middle management they need to survive. They have to be descreet, and they spend most of their time with politics. There is the famous saying by Luc(as) de Groot, you know it, about us designers having to “happify” our clients, “die Auftraggeber verglücklichen”. But in many cases it means: We have to make our clients look good.

SO, AS A DESIGNER AND HEAD YOU HAVE TO BE POLITICAL AS Yes of course. It’s all politics. It begins with the team. Who is in the team? Normally you have at least someone who is good at it, someone who has to be in it, and somebody who cannot do anything else. And then you must look at the client’s side when choosing the people for your team. How it fits. If the client is a chauvinist, you probably would not

make a woman the head of your team. I mean, you can, like I experienced with Pia once [Pia Betton, partner at Edenspiekermann and Design Thinking specialist]: A client who wouldn’t accept her first, only to later admit how impressed he was by “that tough little lady”. In short, making the team is the first, and yes, a political step.

BOSCH Q: Bosch Sans Black · A: Bosch Serif Regular Released 2004


DB DB Head Black Released 2006

It始s a the "bu th

always ut" hing.

Do we have to take politics into account even more when working in growing agencies and working for bigger clients? It’s all about politics. Yes. It takes a lot of energy and it hurts.

NOKIA Q: Nokia Sans Regular · A: Nokia Sans Light Released 2002

It hurts when you have to make things fit into the corporate greyness. When you are needed to help to make everything beige, isn’t that even worse? Beige. The color of dullness.

So can we assume that you yourself had to

Of course. Lots. Lots, lots! Otherwise I wouldn’t know. There are so many of them. [Sighs deeply]. Mostly they are people who don’t like what they do, and people who can’t make decisions. It’s always the “but” thing. They say yes, we can do this and that, but… and that’s very, very frustrating. For both sides. The non-decision makers. The “Stille Post”, as we call it in German. It always happens in big companies: people don’t want to make mistakes. They are afraid.

FIRA Q: Fira Sans Heavy · A: Fira Sans Hair Released 2002

work for arseholes?

How do you recognize ar for or with them? Is it p to warn colleagues and

META Q: Meta Serif Book · A: Meta Normal Released 1990

It’s just a gut feeling. Forty years of experience. [Thinks.]

rseholes when working ossible to teach or even students about them? Unfortunately there are people who are really nice but totally useless in their jobs. I know some of them. I like to drink a beer with them and talk privately, and they are totally nice, really, but they don’t have the possibility or the guts to decide in their jobs. Which is a pity of course. [Ponders.]

It’s a luxury if you have a personal relationship with somebody you work with. And you can’t have a relationship with anybody you don’t trust. Everything else is post-rationalizing. Sometimes you try to like somebody or you think you like somebody because you want to, you try, you try your best because you think you have to, and have to work with them. But it doesn’t function in the end. [Contemplates.]

Everybody can learn shit but you don’t learn attitude. You can’t learn character. You have it or you have it not. I prefer beginners who are nice to people who are arseholes with skills. You can learn skills. An arsehole will always be an arsehole.


OFFICINA Officina Serif Bold Released 1989


Now we do have some indications. To sum it up: What is the main characteristic – or maybe there are two or three characteristics – of a non-arsehole?

when I visit the doctor, I would discuss about my body, of course, about my health, because we share the concern about my health. But I would not discuss about the medicine he or she [Erik smiles. A very warm, recommends. They silent smile.] are the experts and I respect that. So yes, Somebody who respects respect, from a craft you as an equal. perspective. Concerning our “Handwerk”. Like we put it in our manifesto: A client that And then, people have respects us, and a client to be honest. About their we respect. I mean, reasons, what they are

don’t care, and don’t even think about how they treat you. Those are arseholes, again. They are not partners. That’s it, respect and trust. And it goes both ways equally. That’s called communication. Thank you, Erik!

CISCO Q: Cisco Sans Condensed Bold · A: Cisco Sans Condensed Thin Released 2010

trying to achieve when hiring us. We need to be open, and they need to be open. Then we create mutual trust. We have done our best work for clients with whom we have a relationship over time, and that means trust. I would even accept a Friday afternoon call and a presentations on Monday if it’s for a client whom I trust, and therefore I know, it’s really urgent and they need help. But not if I have the feeling that they



01 CHRISTOPH NIEMANN Illustration 2009 02 MICHEL MALLARD Creative Direction 2009 03 FUN FACTORY Product Design 2009 04 ANDREAS UEBELE Signage Design 2010 05 HARRI PECCINOTTI Photography 2010 06 KUSTAA SAKSI Illustration 2010 07 5.5 DESIGNERS Product Design 2011 08 NIKLAUS TROXLER Graphic Design 2011 09 JOACHIM SAUTER Media Design 2011 10 MICHAEL JOHNSON Graphic Design 2011 11 ELVIS POMPILIO Fashion Design 2011 12 STEFAN DIEZ Industrial Design 2012 13 CHRISTIAN SCHNEIDER Sound Design 2012 14 MARIO LOMBARDO Editorial Design 2012 15 SAM HECHT Industrial Design 2012 16 SONJA STUMMERER & MARTIN HABLESREITER Food Design 2012 17 LERNERT & SANDER Art & Design 2013 18 MURAT GÜNAK Automotive Design 2013 19 NICOLAS BOURQUIN Editorial Design 2013 20 SISSEL TOLAAS Scent Design 2013 21 CHRISTOPHE PILLET Product Design 2013 22 MIRKO BORSCHE Editorial Design 2014 23 PAUL PRIESTMAN Transportation Design 2014 24 BRUCE DUCKWORTH Packaging Design 2014

PUBLISHER Design Friends COORDINATION Guido Kröger LAYOUT Guido Kröger INTERVIEW Sonja Knecht ( PRINT Faber Imprimerie PAPER Scheufelen (Heaven 42 softmatt) PRINT RUN 500 (Limited edition)

with Carrérotondes asbl MAPPING AUGUST. An Infographic Challenge 2010

ISBN 978-99959-807-5-7 PRICE 5 € DESIGN FRIENDS Association sans but lucratif (Luxembourg) BOARDMEMBERS Nadine Clemens (President) Mike Koedinger (Vice-president) Anabel Witry (Secretary) Guido Kröger (Treasurer) COUNSELORS Heike Fries Mik Muhlen Stéphanie Rollin Silvano Vidale



This catalogue is published for Erik Spiekermann's lecture at ­Mudam Luxembourg on September 24 2014 organized by Design Friends.

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