Page 1

The Face Behind the Type by Hannah Kieffer

The Face Behind the Type by Hannah Kieffer

Published by UMass Lowell Art & Design Department November 2018


Introductions Margo Chase Success Secrets from Margo Chase Growing an Iconic Business The Future of Packaging

2 5 7 12 18

Erik Spiekermann 26 No Free Pitches 28 A Chat with Erik Spiekermann 36

Influential Designers Margo Chase didn’t start off on the design route. Her undergraduate and graduate education was geared towards biology, but after one art class, she was hooked. She found that she loved to draw. Her career took off soon after she finished all her schooling. She freelanced for a while, and was able to land gigs to design for some popular musical artists including Cher, Madonna, Prince, and Paula Abdul. She was good at taking advantages of opportunities when they came to her. Chase knew that designing for a musical artist could only go so far as a career, because she realized that after a certain point, the package design didn’t influence the consumer; they bought albums for the artist and their music. She wanted to create packaging and branding in which the design alone would be powerful enough to stop a consumer in their tracks. She freelanced more, hired on a few people for managing the business side of the client’s request, and soon had her very own business to go along with her design prowess. Chase’s work is characterized by her gorgeous gothic type, which has been turned into many excellent typefaces, such as Kruella, Edit, and Portcullis. Many of these typefaces have been featured in the logos of CW shows like Angel, The Secret Circle, and famously Buffy the Vampire Slayer, each logo of which she also designed.

2 | The Face Behind the Type

Erik Spiekermann began his typography journey when he was very young. He had his own small printing press when he was 12. In his early twenties, he traveled to Britain, where he began his own freelance printing business and became inspired by all the design and art he saw there. Fueled by foreign design, he eventually came back to Germany and founded the famous German design company, MetaDesign. While working there, he designed the logos and typefaces for big car brands like Volkswagen, Skoda, and Audi. Several years later, he began the very first typeface selling business, in which he partnered with the newly arising Adobe programs to sell their typefaces to the rest of Europe. FontShop, as it was called, now has an online presence and is a collaborative effort by many designers. He now runs another company which he founded, called Edenspiekermann. His work is known well by his crisp typefaces such as ITC Officina, FF Real, FF Meta, Berliner Grotesk, and many others. His ITC Officina is now used in public transportation signage around Germany. His style is denoted in part by his stricter adherence to a grid, which makes his work always look neat ‘n’ tidy, and above all, readable. He is known also for his work with manual printing presses, which he still uses alongside Adobe’s computer programs. So, if these designers’ styles are so sporadically different, what is it they have in common? What unites these artists is not their styles, but rather the kind of work they did. Both of them had a hand in some of the world’s best known brands. Ever heard of Nestle or Mattel? CVS Pharmacy? Starbucks, Target, or even Coca Cola? Margo Chase, and her design company Chase Design Group, had a hand in them all. The logos and typefaces for Volkswagen, Audi, Nokia, and even FireFox wouldn’t be what they are today without Spiekermann. Both of them created beautiful and highly unique typefaces, recognizable on the spot. They share an understanding of the value of using traditional tools, such as a printing press, and even calligraphy pens. Chase doodled and drew all the time, and experimented with pens, nibs, and line weights. Spiekermann still uses a printing press to make simplistic yet elegant posters, displaying witty quotes in his own type. What this book aims to do is showcase their different approaches to similar end goals, specifically all these well known brands these two helped create.

The Face Behind the Type |


Chase Design Group Founder, In memoriam, 2017

4 | The Face Behind the Type

Margo Chase is an American graphic designer. With a degree in biology and two years of medical illustration studies, Chase fell in love with design when she took a course on a whim while studying at California Polytechnic State University. Her first job in graphic arts was a tedious paste-up position, which gave her great appreciation for computers. Since founding Chase Design Group in 1986, Margo’s vision has provided the fuel for Chase Design Group’s growth and achievement. Recognized worldwide for her skill with custom typog- raphy and identity development, Margo is dedicated to creating client success through high-quality, intelligent creative.

The Face Behind the Type |


sucess secrets from



Pay atten tion to t he busin the desig ess side n side. as much

as First figu re out w ha to that a nd hire p t you do well. Th en, stick eople to do the o t her thin Involve c gs. lients in a discuss business ion abou es and h t ow desig achieve n can he their their goa lp them ls.

Various lo gos Vampire D for Buff y the Vamp ir iaries, the Secret Circ e Slayer, Angel, Cha rmed, Cult le, Reign, iZ , the ombie, an d the Orig inals.

The Face Behind the Type |


Early beginnings I got started by accident really. I was a biology major in college, studying to be a veterinarian. And in the attempt to keep my grade point average high enough to get into one of the few really good graduate schools, I took an illustration class that turned out to be part of the graphic design curriculum. And I fell in love with it. It was the easiest A I ever earned. As a result, I decided to change my major, and I went to graduate school in medical illustration which I thought would be the best of biology and the best of the creative part of design. I studied 2 years doing master’s work at the University of San Francisco, and realized it was not really either. It was not very creative, at least not in the sense that graphic design is, in terms of the self-expressive, problem-solving areas of design, which are the parts I love. The more educational part of medical illustration is primarily to portray a particular surgical process, or a disease in a very understandable way for, say, medical students. And so the people doing that spent a lot of time in hospital basements, and it didn’t sound like a good job to me. So, I tried to get a job in design.

On starting a business I moved to Los Angeles, and started looking for a job in sales. And I ended up starting my own business. I really happened inadvertently. I was soliciting freelance projects where I could find them, and that gradually built into the firm I have now. The first projects I got were for a publishing company called Rosebud Books, here in LA. They published primarily tourism books, and they owned Architectural Digest, and several other publications.

Margo’s move into entertainment design Shortly after I started working with Rosebud, some of the people on their staff left the company and went to work at Warner Records. They started hiring me to do logo design and lettering for album covers. That led into my doing, pretty much, full-time music oriented work as an independent designer. I never had a job offer from any of the labels, but I did a lot of work for Warner Bros. Records, Virgin Records, Sony, EMI, Capitol Records, you name it. In fact, for 10 years that’s about all I did. And, it absorbed the first 10 years of my career.

Cher Logo Margo Chase

8 | The Face Behind the Type

Like A Prayer graphic for Madonna album

On how business comes to Margo’s studio A lot of the business comes to us from what I like to call “Magic Phone.” People who have heard about us in one way or another, or have seen our work somewhere, or have been recommended to us by someone just call. We have a person who does PR for us and we spend a lot of time cultivating current clients to increase the amount of work that we do for them. We also have several people who help us in new business development.

Margo’s her favorite accomplishment

Margo’s thoughts on the secrets to her success

Thoughts on doing things differently

I think the major key to my success is the fact that I’m stubborn. I’m competitive and I don’t like losing. I like being successful, and I don’t like doing things that I don’t do well. That’s probably true for most people who are successful, although I’m not necessarily sure that’s entirely true of designers in general. I believe it’s true of anyone who’s really good at what they do. They’re committed and maybe a little OCD about it.

I spent a lot of time, especially in entertainment, doing self-expressive, personal design. It was work that I really liked, but it wasn’t really contributing much to the business bottom line. The entertainment business doesn’t encourage that kind of thinking because strategy isn’t really required. It’s not the design that sells the music. The music sells the music, and the design is for the most part decorative. If I could do it over again, I would have more quickly become involved with clients in a discussion about their businesses and about how design can help them achieve their goals, because I believe that design can have a huge influence on consumer

I’m most proud of the fact that I have a business that’s successful and employs talented people, and that I get to come here every day and hang out with people I like.

The Face Behind the Type |


behavior and on the success or failure of sales of certain products and of companies in general. Until I finished with entertainment, I never really got a chance to test my theories about that.

On working in entertainment graphics People don’t make money doing music packaging beyond a certain point. Because the album design has a minimal business impact on sales. It helps, but people don’t buy a Madonna album because of the album cover. They buy it because of Madonna. After a certain point, design can’t change people’s behavior, and therefore it’s not valued very highly.

Thoughts on the strategy side of graphic design I’ve always been interested to explore ideas about what design can do, the changes it can create. Now we focus much more on consumer products and brand development. These areas are places where design has a huge potential impact on the success. As a result, I think we’re getting a bigger playing field between the strategy and the creativity, which are the things I love most. I don’t feel that there are many designers in the world who are really good at understanding strategy and then are able to translate that strategy into design. There are design firms that really do well in one or the other, but few can really do the magic that happens when the two come together.

On the importance of business coaches Over the years we’ve hired consultants at different times, and they were really helpful in some ways. For example, we needed to watch how much money we were spending on payroll, and being aware of how much producing the work was actually costing us compared to what

10 | The Face Behind the Type

we were earning. These sorts of issues I had no idea about early on. I thought that if we were busy, things really must be good. At different times, we worked with a couple of different kinds of coaches, from the basic business issues to working with people who are more experienced in marketing, and have helped us think about how we might market ourselves, how our clients marketing departments work, and in general, what marketing is all about.

On attending business seminars James Bradley, our president, went to the Harvard Business Conference last year, and I think it was really valuable for all of us, because he was able to bring back some amazing information and insights which have translated into immediate benefits for the firm.

CW “TV to Talk About” Head For CW Website

Tips for someone new to the industry I’m not really sure I could suggest how someone might become a success in this industry. My path is not really repeatable, and maybe nobody’s path is. It’s not like there’s this process or success formula that someone could really follow. The only thing I can say is that someone new to the industry should first figure out what they do well. Stick to that, and hire people to do the other things.

On getting good clients In my view it’s really more difficult to get rid of bad clients than it is to find clients in general. There’s a lot of information out there on how find them, but I think finding good ones, or finding ones that are good for you, depends on

the scope that you have, or the business acumen that you have. Finding clients who are a good fit for your kind of company, your size and skills and experience is what it’s all about.

About Margo Since founding Chase Design Group in 1986, Margo has consistently produced and led award-winning work in many areas of design. Recognized worldwide for her skill with custom typography and identity development, Margo is dedicated to creating client success through high-quality, intelligent creative. Her vision provides the fuel for Chase Design Group’s growth and achievement.

The Face Behind the Type |


Growing an Iconic Business Mr. CLean mascot redesign 2008

12 | The Face Behind the Type

Margo Chase made a name creating iconic typography for some of the globe’s biggest music stars (hello, Madonna, Prince and Cher). That was 30 years ago, and Chase’s influence and creative integrity are still thriving. In between, she’s landed nearly every major honor in the design field and been recognized by HOW, I.D., Graphis and others. Very deliberately growing her business since 1986 from a solo practice, Chase now steers a bi-coastal design studio with 30-some employees. At HOW Design Live in Chicago, Chase will present Fired Up: Fueling Growth with Good Design, in which she’ll talk about finding the delicate balance between a financially successful firm and a creatively successful one. We recently asked her to look back at projects that put her on the map and to share what’s led to her success. Looking back at the start of your career, did you envision leading a business with 30some employees? To paraphrase the Talking Heads, “Well, how did you get here?” It wasn’t really a plan. When I started, it was all about the work. I’m in LA, so the entertainment and music business was the place to be very self-expressive as a designer. I looked for a job when I got out of school and I expected to get hired in with a studio, but that didn’t happen, so I started freelancing. That work started to grow, so I started hiring people to help me with the design, and then I hired a bookkeeper and then there came a point when I knew I needed to hire more help. My business partner, Chris [Lowery] has been instrumental. Once we got to be 5 or 6, I sort of woke up and realized: This is a business. This is fun and inspiring. When you’re working alone, you get up super early and you have a great idea and you start to work and suddenly it’s 2 p.m. and you’re still in your pajamas … that’s a luxury but it’s also sort of lonely. I found that there was this whole energy of having more people and more ideas flowing around. People

told me, “You better be careful because you’ll grow your business to the point where you don’t get to design anymore.” I’ve been deliberate about not letting that happen. My range of involvement varies a lot — there are times when I’m designing the whole project, and times when I contribute parts of the work, a logo or elements of typography, and times when I’m involved in just the creative direction. I get to pick and choose the projects where it makes sense for me to get deeply involved. I’d prefer wearing two hats — being the boss and doing the design — than not getting to design at all.

“After doing that for about a decade, I started to see the writing on the wall and I realized that I wanted to do work where design would sell the product.”

The Face Behind the Type |


Can you recall a watershed project — one that helped establish your reputation and put you on the map? How did you land that work? Did you realize at the time that it had the potential to transform your business? We’ve had a couple. Back when it was just me in the music business, getting to work with Madonna raised my profile not only in the music business but outside as well. After doing that for about a decade, I started to see the writing on the wall and I realized that I wanted to do work where design would sell the product — that’s not true in the entertainment business, where the movie star or the musician sells the product. I knew that consumer products and packaging was where design could make a difference. The first client we got was a brand called Kama Sutra. They were in a fringe market — sensual body products — but they were willing to take a risk on me because at the time I didn’t have packaging experience outside of music packaging. Our work helped changed their business dramatically — it took them from super niche to mass-market. I realized that we could then take that story and sell our capabilities in CPG. Califia Farms has been another watershed client — we’ve worked with them for about five years. Starting from scratch, we created their logo and packaging for their almond milk and cold brew coffee and other products, and it’s been very disruptive in the category. I love design and I love that we can see the results of our work make a difference every day.

14 | The Face Behind the Type

You manage to create really beautiful work for both mass-market brands like Nestle and P&G and for small brands like Atwater Village Farm. What does it take to produce quality design in the face of brand standards and corporate cultures and all those other roadblocks to great work? I think that the fact that we advocate for design is part of the reason. We fight for the work, and a lot of that work the gets into the mass market still has high design quality. It’s a battle … forever. We’re always challenging, “Have you thought of this?” “Are you sure this is what you want?” I think it’s that level of dedication to quality first that separates us — we spend a lot of time talking about that around here. It’s about balancing a financially successful company with a creatively successful one — and that’s what I’ll be talking about at HOW. There are projects we take where we don’t get to win those creative battles, but they fund other work that we love. But the real successes are where it’s a mass-market product and we still love the work.

Starbucks logo redesign, 2011

“If we’re not going to do the work we feel good about, why are we in it?”

Target logo redesign, 2006

The Face Behind the Type |


“To me, graphic design seems like something that’s ‘built’ the same way.

16 | The Face Behind the Type

Califia Farms logo redesign for milk and citrus juices

At the bottom is the passion for the making of the thing, not the money or the recognition it will get you.�

The Face Behind the Type |


The Future of Packaging

18 | The Face Behind the Type

Remember CDs and records and the great packaging they came in? Not only was there a graphic device to pull you in, but within the package there were gatefolds that included song lyrics and additional photography and notes. It was a treat to buy music and engage with the package. Today, we see an icon in iTunes and download the music we want. Sure, it’s easy, but certainly not as joyful. In the height of the music scene in the ’80s and ’90s, Margo Chase was designing some of the best album covers for artists like Madonna, Cher, Paula Abdul and more.

Design for limited edition star Wars Coffee-mate bottles 2015

The Face Behind the Type |


Over the years, she expanded her practice, Chase Design Group, to encompass all kinds of package design categories for brands like Gain laundry detergent, Nestle Coffee Mate, Mr. Clean, and Kind bars. Chase understands what works on the shelf at brick and mortar stores, and what’s working in the online shopping environment, and what works for one, doesn’t necessarily work for the other. In fact, designers need to rethink the packaging experience for both environments in order for their clients to succeed. Here Chase talks about how the game is changing in packaging for online and in-store, and how designers need to adapt and evolve, or be left out all together. Whoever said, “The only constant is change” must have been a designer. I’ve been designing packaging and adapting to change for almost 30 years. My first packages were 12-inch album covers, which quickly became 5-inch CD covers, and finally, with the advent of the internet, music became downloadable and packaging was reduced to a digital icon. Few industries have been changed as radically by the web as the music business, but today every

Peter Rabbit Clothes design 2008

20 | The Face Behind the Type

business is feeling the impact of the growth of online retail. Living through the changes in the music business made me wary of complacency and aware of how quickly nimble start-ups can take advantage of new technologies to win market share. Apple Music (iTunes) and similar digital music platforms put many traditional music labels out of business by developing online technologies to showcase new artists and albums in ways that utilized the possibilities offered in the digital sphere and maximized impact and engagement with consumers in ways that were unique to online experience.

FIRST MOMENT OF TRUTH – THE STORE Online and in-store shopping are very different shopping environments. In-store packaging is designed to stop, hold and close in order to convert shoppers to buyers. Each package must fight for attention on a shelf of similar products and must communicate brand and benefits quickly.

After decades of experience, package designers have become experts at using structure, form, materials, images and colors to break through the visual clutter and build brands in store. P&G CEO, A.G. Lafley coined the term “first moment of truth,� to describe the moment a shopper stops to examine a product. He trained his marketers to understand consumer trends and shopping behavior, and utilized techniques such as eye tracking and facial expression to optimize each package and take advantage of every opportunity to catch the attention of shoppers and get them to make the purchase. Some of these traditional skills translate into the online world, but many don’t.

Peter Rabbit Clothes design logo, 2008

The Face Behind the Type |


THE ZERO MOMENT – ONLINE Google coined the term “zero moment” to describe the moment before the in-store experience because, for years, online was seen as simply another way to advertise products and drive consumers to the store. Today, from Amazon to Instacart, online retail is changing rapidly. Many brands that used to sell primarily in stores, are seeing huge increases in online sales, and many are struggling to adapt to the demands of selling in multiple environments.Unlike music, brands that sell physical products have to find ways to take advantage of the power of online retail without walking away from their traditional retail channels—which are still years away from extinction. Many are still trying to apply brick-andmortar thinking and are slow adapt to digital capabilities and embrace new approaches to product packaging. Most brands still use small, low-res digital images of their

22 | The Face Behind the Type

in-store packaging to sell their products online. These images don’t work well in online store environments like Amazon, because they don’t capitalize on the digital and virtual potential of 3D animation, zoom, motion or sound. These brands need to take a hint from the music business and create “virtual packages” that work in the new virtual environment: packaging that takes advantage of the potential of that world while still connecting consumers to their familiar shapes, colors, and brand attributes. The few strongest elements of a brand’s package are all that’s necessary to create recognition in the online world. The details of product and benefits no longer need to be built into a package as bursts or claims, they can be seamlessly integrated in text, animation, and even user-generated testimonials.

Left: Before and after progress of Gain packaging. Below: Close up of new Gain package design.

THE SECOND MOMENT OF TRUTH – AT HOME New brands like Warby Parker, Blue Apron and Stitch Fix are providing fresh creative models for building online brands. Because they don’t sell in traditional retail environments, they have focused their packaging on the second moment of truth, the moment when the product arrives in the consumer’s hands. They have mixed traditional package design skills with the customization and flexibility online sales provide to create truly personal “unboxing” experiences that connect emotionally with consumers. Examples like these have helped many of our clients understand the potential of building packaging that delivers something special at the second moment. For some of our clients, we are exploring ways to use simple generic packages that can be customized inexpensively to create personalized experiences for consumers.

The Face Behind the Type |


Just as the role of packaging online differs greatly from that designed to succeed in-store, the moment when the product arrives at home has it’s own unique issues. Each environment requires its own solution to ensure the consistency of the brand story and the maximization of the shopping experience for the consumer. For many brands, the ideal solution would be three different packages, one designed for the traditional retail shopping environment, another digital package optimized for online viewing and a third designed for the moment when the product arrives in the consumer’s hands. Unfortunately, few businesses can support more than one package for any product so it will be up to designers to develop creative ways to design packaging that expresses the brand, takes advantage of each moment of interaction and makes a strong emotional connection with consumers.

Gain scents for fabric softener: Apple Mango Tango, Tropical Sunrise, Lavender

24 | The Face Behind the Type

After 30 years of experience, I know that change is constant and new technologies will continue to affect the way we live and shop. Online shopping is certain to grow and the need for physical packaging won’t disappear any time soon. The need to create an essential connection between brand and consumer has always been important and for many brands, packaging will continue to be one of the most important ways to make that connection. If designers begin to regard packaging as an experience rather than a container, the lines between in-store and online begin to blur, and the possibilities for what a package can be becomes limitless. Whether the experience is physical or digital, communicating the brand and creating memorable experiences for consumers will keep package designers busy for years to come.

The Face Behind the Type |


Erik Spiek w 26 | The Face Behind the Type

kermann was here. Erik Spiekermann – art historian, printer, typedesigner (Meta, Officina, Unit, Info, Fira et al) information architect, author. Founder MetaDesign ’79, FontShop ’89. Honorary Royal Designer for Industry Britain 2007. TDC Medal & National German Lifetime Achievement Award 2011, etc. Now Edenspiekermann Berlin, San Francisco, Amsterdam, Los Angeles. Lives in Berlin, London & San Francisco. A book about his life and work “Hello I am Erik” was published by Gestalten Verlag in 2014.

The Face Behind the Type |


No Free Pitches by Matt McCue

28 | The Face Behind the Type

Erik Spiekermann insists he’s retired, that his whirlwind schedule and backlog of projects is all just a hobby. One day he’s in his hometown of Berlin, where he’s currently overseeing his experimental letterpress workshop, galerie p98a. The next he’s off to San Francisco, where Edenspiekermann, the digital branding and product company he founded, has an office. Then it’s on to Los Angeles for a presentation at the Art Center of Los Angeles, before flying across the country to speak at the Type Directors Club in New York City. He spends the next day in Manhattan – a Saturday – taking meetings beginning at 9:30 a.m. to plan future endeavors, rather than kicking back.

This is not a man who lazes away his days, especially when you consider that Spiekermann regularly takes his bike out for 20-, 30-, 40-mile spins. “Ever since I’ve had four stents put in my heart, I’m good as new,” he says. Given his body of work and superhuman level of accomplishment, however, Spiekermann could certainly justify never working another day in his life. The type designer, information architect, and entrepreneur has created branding for Audi, Bosch, VW and German Railways, as well as done a way-finding redesign for Düsseldorf Airport and a makeover of The Economist. Along with Edenspiekermann, he has founded two other businesses, MetaDesign and FontShop. We caught up with Spiekermann in New York City to reflect on his storied career, understand how he parlayed his creative talent into a number of thriving companies, and learn why he needs to live to 100 to be able to finish half of what he has on his plate in the coming years. You arrived for and were ready to do this interview 10 minutes early. Have you always been this prompt?

You strike me as someone who operates with maximum efficiency. No, no, no. I am a weird mix. I am incredibly precise and very chaotic when it comes to my own life. I have no plan. I just wing it. But I am terribly fastidious when it comes to the small stuff. When I do typography, it’s 150 percent effort. With meetings like this, I’m always on time. And everybody who is not drives me crazy, because it’s rude and inefficient. Being on time is a sign of civility between two people. In my work, I am incredibly teutonic and fussy, and I’m trying to be a little more relaxed. Because I’m terrible that way. My wife complains about the fact that I’m like this. Galerie p98a was supposed to be a hobby, not a business. But it turned into – I now have 20 proof presses. Who needs more proof presses than any museum probably? It is not because I want to die with the most proof presses – I probably will – it just happened. How do you work?

“I am a weird mix. I am incredibly precise and very chaotic when it comes to my own life. I have no plan. I just wing it. But I am terribly fastidious when it comes to the small stuff.”

I’ve learned this over time. I don’t know why, because I’m creative, I guess, I was always five minutes late to everything. When I was at MetaDesign in the ’90s, there were regular meetings with a dozen people and everybody had to wait for me because I’m the boss. Then one time, I worked out the math that if I’m five minutes late and there are 12 people sitting there, that’s 60 minutes. And if every one of those people charges $100/hour for our client work, then I’m wasting $100 by having people wait for me for five minutes. I know it doesn’t quite work that way, but it does add up over time. From that day on, I realized I could be five minutes early.

Work is gas. Work will fill any given volume. If you give me two hours, I will take two hours. If you give me 10 minutes, I will take 10 minutes. So if you give somebody two weeks to do a project, he’s going to start on day 12 and it will take him two days, but the two weeks will be filled because work expands like gas. Straightforward physics. That’s why I don’t believe in time sheets, because you always happen to have eight hours at the end of the day. You make up stuff. I felt that if our business model means that people have to work overtime or weekends, the business model stinks. So everybody is out by 7 p.m.–we literally close the doors at 7 p.m. –because if you have to work overtime, then your model stinks. And if the clients require you to do weekends, then the clients aren’t right. They wouldn’t do it themselves.

The Face Behind the Type |


Like if you tell someone they can go home once they’re done with their work for the day, and not necessarily a specific time like 6 p.m., they tend to get their work done earlier than 6 p.m. I know a lot of advertising agencies that thrive on overtime because they have a dozen interns who work for free and they spend their weekends doing free pitches. We don’t do free pitches because we don’t have any free time. Our time is valuable, and I’m not giving away ideas to some prospective client. That’s giving away the most valuable resource you have. So you contract your pitches as part of the project fee? Clients come in and they discuss working with you, so of course you have to show them something. But a lot of clients, they want us to make some sketches to show what it could look like. That’s already the work we do. That’s the meal. We’ll discuss the menu with clients but once they sit down and eat the first bite, it’s chargeable. I’m not giving away any creative work for free. Once we know what the project is, we’ll tell you how much it’s going to cost. But we won’t deliver any ideas for free. We deliver a proposal that describes the work and the timing. What first led you to parlay your creativity into a business? It was necessity. I went to university in Berlin, but my first wife and I had a child very early on, at 21, while I was going to university. So I had to work, and I didn’t ever graduate. Paying for the family meant I was doing all sorts of things. I could design stuff and print stuff for people while doing artwork as well. That’s how I sold myself. I drifted into the freelance life and then we went to London.

30 | The Face Behind the Type

What motivated you to go there? The motivation was mostly negative. My wife at the time, Joan, was English, and we rented a really nice house when my son was born in Berlin. And then the owner of the house pushed us out after two years. We were so devastated that we said we might as well go to England, where Joan comes from and where I’d previously been in the ’60s. We went to London in 1973. I worked nights doing typography for a company called Filmcomposition, until I put together a résumé in 1977 and sent it to bunch of agencies offering me work. I got a call from Wally Olins at Wolff Olins who said they had all these German clients, and I went over to Wolff Olins and took care of all of them, like VW and Audi, on freelance terms. At the time in Germany, there weren’t any large corporate design studios. There were only mom-and-pop shops, so all the big brands went to England or to America. I became the Germans’ connection to Wolff Olins on the production side. I ended up starting MetaDesign in 1979 while I was still at Wolff Olins and returned to Berlin in 1981. How did you decide to start another one of your businesses, FontShop, in 1989? Because I was in the type scene I first visited Adobe’s offices in California in ’87 or ’88, and I brought back all of these fonts from Adobe on computer disks because we didn’t have them in Europe yet. Pretty soon, more people in Europe were asking me for fonts, so I thought that there was a marketplace here. I persuaded people like Adobe to give me fonts to sell on consignment and suddenly I had about 800 disks with 800 fonts in the cellar underneath our studio in

The Face Behind the Type |


Before and after Audi logos, 2009

Berlin. It was the invention of the mail order font business – this was before downloading and the Internet. We had a phone line and we put ads in the local graphic design magazines in Berlin, and the next day the phones rang and there was cash suddenly. It was me and my, by that time, ex-wife, in the MetaDesign Studio, which was only six or seven people. We had one desk that was called the FontShop desk. It was a telephone and literally a chair. It was a mom-and-pop shop that grew, and after three years, we had 40 people working at FontShop. What do you feel is the biggest challenge for a typographer in 2017? There is more copycatting than there has been. I can see two approaches. One is that you have a creative urge to design a typeface because you want to. You have an idea, and you don’t care whether it’s been done before. You want to express yourself in the writing system, so you design a typeface. If you’re very lucky, it’s unusual, it works, and it goes somewhere. These days, that happens now and again. Then the other school

32 | The Face Behind the Type

is that you have maybe a thousand foundries, and everybody has their version of the classics – Times, Helvetica, Futura, whatever – that they’ve done by going a little on either side of the classical direction. So that’s a thousand foundries, times 20, and now we have a few hundred thousand fonts. I’ve always designed typefaces for specific solutions. In other words, a problem. Everything has always been done for a specific purpose. As a designer, you work for somebody else. That’s not negative. I work for a client, and I solve their problems. I bring my artistic vision to it, my creativity, whatever you want to call it. But essentially, I’m being paid to blow somebody else’s trumpet. When you look at what other people are Back to the retirement question: Are you ever going to retire? Of course not. I need to live to be a hundred years old to do half of my plans. Some of them go 50 years back. Like I want do a monograph on Louis Oppenheim, a German type designer, obviously Jewish, who died in ’35, luckily, before

the Nazis could get to him. I’ve always liked his work. He’s up there with the greats and nobody knows it. He became a local hero, not an international hero. So that’s been something that I’ve wanted to do forever. I’m also printing books in letterpress, but using Macintosh technology, so using polymer plates rather than starting with Monotype or hand-set lead type. These things, merging digital and analog, have been on my mind for a long time. I know that I will never, ever sit by my fireside and just read books, even though I’m designing a lot of books at the moment, just regular fiction, because I’ve always been annoyed by the fact that so many books are badly designed. I’m not talking about the covers but the internals. There’s no excuse why big publishers can’t have a decent template. I’m reading more fiction because I’m designing a book every other week. I’m not getting paid for it, because the authors are friends of mine. I’ve noticed that I’m pretty good at InDesign. I get my style sheets done, and I design a book in an afternoon that might take other people a week.

Some claim that globalization and the Internet are wiping out the pluralism and variety in design and typography through the standardization of styles. How do you see this? Globalization makes things the same, and the same can mean bland, but the it can also mean easy access. It means that I can go anywhere in the world and I can move around because certain things are standardized, like a street curb, which I appreciate. But globalization in a cultural way is bad because it leads to homogeneity. While I regret globalization to a certain extent, I sometimes see it bringing out the best in people. In Berlin, we’ve got more than 150,000 Turks who are second or third generation. They’re bringing their culture to Berlin. Then people realize: Wait a minute. There is something else.

The Face Behind the Type |


Erik Spiekermann interview quote tryptich

34 | The Face Behind the Type

The Face Behind the Type |


A Chat With Erik Spiekermann by Om Malik

Design Back in the Day What was London like in the 1970s, from a creative standpoint? It was great, because there were a lot of things happening ahead of the curve of the rest of Europe. London has always been a creative capital, and in those days new technology was moving into society. The whole corporate design business was actually invented. I mean, it came out of there. There was Landor, but I worked for Wolff Olins, and the two of them, Michael Wolff and Wally Olins, certainly invented the idea that you could have a studio of 60 people and still do cool work. I learned that business and design — or business and creativity — aren’t opposites. They need each other. Now we talk about “experience design” as part of the business process. Was it like that in the ’70s? Did people think about design? It was mostly communication, [something to] enhance their business. It would give them the upper hand, or another value. The word “brand” hadn’t been invented, but that was what we were doing. We were creating and shaping brands, and the good companies saw it. Those are the ones who are still around today. We did work for Audi and VW in the late ’70s, because at the time they knew it was important to be branded properly, internationally.

36 | The Face Behind the Type

FF Real typeface poster 2015

The Face Behind the Type |


Now we talk about “experience design” as part of the business process. Was it like that in the ’70s? Did people think about design? It was mostly communication, to enhance their business. It would give them the upper hand, or another value. The word “brand” hadn’t been invented, but that was what we were doing. We were creating and shaping brands, and the good companies saw it. Those are the ones who are still around today. We did work for Audi and VW in the late ’70s, because at the time they knew it was important to be branded properly, internationally. Why do you think the English have weird, creative ideas? I mean, Jony Ive is another example of that. It can’t be the beer that makes them weird. June typography poster from galerie p98a, 2015

On English eccentricity What was London like in the 1970s, from a creative standpoint? It was great, because there were a lot of things happening ahead of the curve of the rest of Europe. London has always been a creative capital, and in those days new technology was moving into society. The whole corporate design business was actually invented. I mean, it came out of there. There was Landor, but I worked for Wolff Olins, and the two of them, Michael Wolff and Wally Olins, certainly invented the idea that you could have a studio of 60 people and still do cool work. I learned that business and design aren’t opposites. They need each other.

38 | The Face Behind the Type

No, the beer is lousy. It’s because the Brits are all over the place. There’s the Celtics, the Irish, the Scots and the Germanic part, the French part. The language itself is an amalgam of many languages. Their culture is a total mix of other cultures, but then it’s also preserved because of that island. Everything in England is idiosyncratic. I don’t know how they ever managed to have their stupid empire. I mean, how did the Brits conquer people? That’s another issue, I know, especially with you. How did they rule India, for Christ’s sake? For 200 years. It’s like why companies become big, right? Microsoft became big not because it was exceptionally brilliant. All its competitors were stupid, like Netscape making bad decisions upon bad decisions. Now Google is not full of super geniuses; it doesn’t have a grand design. I think a lot of its competitors didn’t quite measure up, so it is winning. But I think half the English creativity comes from the fact that they have always been an international country. There’s nothing there in Britain.

Examples of Spiekermann’s typefaces Berliner Grotesk, FF Meta, ITC Officina Serif, and ITC Officina Sans, 1978-2013

They had a bit of coal and a bit of steel, but it’s not a country that has a lot of resources other than the weird people who went all over the world and brought back — I mean, they had immigrants there. The first black people I saw were in England. We didn’t have any black people in Germany in the ’60s. They were all Jamaican bus drivers in London in the ’60s, when I first went there. Indians? We didn’t have any Indians in Germany in the ’60s. We had nothing. We killed our own Jews and we had no immigrants until the Turks came in. So I wasn’t used to foreign cultures, and in London, everybody was foreign. London’s been like this for a few hundred years, though the Brits wouldn’t admit it. The fact that you go and have a curry. A curry is an English meal. It’s just as English as bangers and mash. I think that’s part of it, by definition having been a mixed place whose people have traveled and started colonies and brought English to other countries. They make good shoes, though. Totally. I used to have English cars all my life. I still have English bicycles. I wish they hadn’t ignored their industrial background. I mean, they invented the Industrial Revolution for chrissake. The Germans only invented chemistry when it came to it, but the British had the mechanics down. They invented the first steam engines. They lost that, for various reasons. They’re still good at making certain things. Maybe it’s because they can’t make things on a large scale, maybe that’s why they are so creative. They start things they never can finish. We go the other way around. We’re not creative in Germany; we’re good at making things. Too good. We always make things 120 percent. You buy anything from us, it’s always over-engineered.

July typography poster from galerie p98a, 2015 The Face Behind the Type |


Showcase of typefaces made by memebers of FontShop

Design Changes When did you see the transformation of design business to the computer? In 1985 I had the job to design a new typeface for the German post office. I went to Linotype to talk to them about digitizing my sketches, and they had a Macintosh. I had seen photographs but not held one. So I lifted it up and put the little floppy in, and then I borrowed this thing and went over from Frankfurt to Bonn, to the ministry. I went in and told these guys, “This is typesetting & is the future. And this floppy, which I have in my shirt pocket, has the typeface on there.” They looked at each other and went, “This guy’s gone mad.” But I knew intuitively, just like with the first smell of printed paper, that this was the future of my business. I bought this first Mac. I was the first graphic designer to own one in Germany. My friends in the business thought I had gone mad, because it was crummy compared to a piece of typesetting equipment. You had the stupid bitmaps and the tiny black-andwhite screen; it took forever. Those floppies in there? [Imitates grinding noise] I didn’t even know, but I felt this was going to be the future for our business. I stuck with it, and then I did some work for PageMaker in Seattle in early ’87. I did some work for Apple in ’86, ’87. I got the first LaserWriter as payment, which at the time was

40 | The Face Behind the Type

like 20,000 marks. It was more than a Golf, the car. I did a lot of work for Adobe, and I got free Photoshop and stuff. My instincts had been right. I knew everybody, and so we started FontShop in early ’89. We were the first-ever distributor of fonts. Everybody else sold their own fonts, and we sold everybody’s. Our first catalog was 800 fonts, and then it quickly grew to 330,000. And the Font Book, the last one that came out in 2008, was 1,600 pages. And then we stopped printing, because there’s no point printing anymore. How did you react to the internet when it came out? It was a godsend. We started MetaDesign in San Francisco in 1992, and by 1993, when the first browser came out, we designed our first website. We designed a website for IDEO at the time. We did a lot of early websites in 1993, 1994. We worked for Apple. We did some flat interface for them. We did icons for Apple, we did stuff for Adobe, stuff for HP. We worked for all the hightech guys, so it was obvious that we had to have computers. One of our challenges was to always have the best equipment. We never saved money. We always bought the best equipment: the most expensive computers, the most expensive printers. We made our own color printer in 1990. We bought a Canon 100, and I knew from Adobe

that they were working on a RIP, which Adobe wouldn’t admit. And the Canon guy said, “No, no, it’s a copier.” And I said, “No, I can make it into a printer.” They said, “No way.” I had these two Dutch guys who hacked a printer driver. We physically soldered it, our own self-made hack to the Canon 100 copier, and made it into a printer before there was anything on the market. I always had some hackers in there, because I wanted to have the coolest shit. We had an A3 color printer, which nobody else did, that I could drive off my Macs in April 1990. It must have been frustrating for you in the late ’90s when the internet was exploding, because the typography was so bad. Yeah, but it was obvious then. Everybody was complaining, but I said, “Just wait.” I said the same 10 years ago, and I say the same now about e-books. There’s a tendency for human beings to interface with things that are pleasant to us. It’s taken 600 years, from Gutenberg to now, for the book to achieve the shape that seems to be optimal for our eyes and hands. Everything that is electronic will achieve the same standard. It will be a different substrate, but there is obviously something in it. Otherwise it wouldn’t have survived for 500 years. The same goes for the screen. I knew it wasn’t going to stay as bad as that. In ’91, Adobe published ATM,

Adobe Type Manager, when some of the bitmaps went smooth and there was anti-aliasing. I know it has taken 20 years, but now it’s as good if not better. The typesetting you get on the computer these days is way better than anything that had ever happened in metal before. It’s a thousand times better. It doesn’t mean people do it as well, but they can. The tools are the best we’ve ever had. Photoshop! When I saw my first Photoshop demonstration, in ’87 at Adobe someplace, I thought my world had just opened up. You could put pictures on the screen and manipulate them. I remember that picture so well. There was a guy in a raincoat on some square in Italy with pigeons around him. They took this guy and gave him a motion blur so it looked like he was walking on the computer in real time. I thought I’d died. I knew that this would not only change my world but also expand it tremendously. It’s a threat, but disruptive technology’s what we thrive on.

The Face Behind the Type |


The Future of the Screen Where do you see web design and tablet design going? As always, things are in flux. A lot of things haven’t found their final form yet. Like I said, the book took a few hundred years to find its final shape, which hasn’t been improved on since the 1600s: The binding is still the same. The printing is still the same. It’s gotten better, but the principle hasn’t changed. The same is true for the computer: The interface is there to stay. But we’ll have a flat screen that’s backlit. Tablets haven’t found their final form, our intelligent phones haven’t found their final form. But all these things will coexist, and they’ll also be developed until they have found 100 percent of what they’re good at. Right now we’re doing things on

42 | The Face Behind the Type

certain machines that we shouldn’t be doing. We shouldn’t be reading long text on a standard phone. It’s stupid. We do it because it’s there, but that’s going to go away. The iPad already moved that over. None of these things have matured yet, but they all give a promise. Some of them will disappear. Do you think content consumption is defined by screen size? There are physical limitations as to certain size. It’s nice to read 10 words a line, 50 to 60 characters. This is science. This is not me. This is something that we like, the way our eyes move in little segments. There are physical limitations to our eyes: the curvature of our eyeballs, the space we have in front of us, the distance from the eyes. That’s human, and no machine can

ever change that. There’s a certain size that looks good to us. There’s a certain contrast. Total black and total white is horrible. That’s why books are nice, because they’re not totally black or totally white. We like a little softer. I download all my German papers. They either come as PDFs, which is pretty stupid, so you have to zoom around, or they come as dedicated apps. What it cuts out is coincidence, happenstance, whatever you call it. Whether it’s The New York Times or especially the Frankfurt Allgemeine paper — a big, large format, twice the size of this — I open [the paper version] and I find things that I wasn’t looking for. On the screen, you have to have a hierarchy, because you can’t fit so much. You have to look for something. Whereas I open the [printed] page and I will find something I wasn’t looking for, I would have never looked for.

I wouldn’t know what to look for. I find things that I wasn’t expecting, and that is enriching. I only need a couple headlines to know it says Ukraine or it says Sochi and I’m done, but the stuff that enriches me is the stuff that I wasn’t expecting. If I read The Economist, which I designed myself, of course, I will go to the contents page, because there I can find all. Opening up and relaxing and finding shit, that’s one thing that is prevented by the constraints of the screen. We have different physical demands and psychological, mental, emotional demands that can’t be met by one machine nor by a book nor by a magazine. That’s why all these things coexist, and they will coexist in the future.

November typography poster from galerie p98a, 2014

The Face Behind the Type |


Waste Not, Want Not In a conversation a couple of years ago you were critical of Apple’s use of Helvetica Neue. I wonder now that we are in the mobile age, Why aren’t we inventing special mobile-first fonts? We have some, just Apple chose not to [use them]. Steve Jobs loved Helvetica, and they put it in there. It’s rubbish. I designed the Mozilla typeface called Fira, which is meant for mobile. It does way better on screen than Helvetica. Mobile fonts are doable, but for some reason are behind there. Why do you think no one is doing it? It’s ignorance, because these are engineering companies. Essentially, so is Apple. Jony is a mate of mine, and he is a good designer, but he is more of an engineer. He is surrounded by these kids in their twenties, and they go for whatever is trendy. For some reason there is nobody in management to tell these guys to go to us for some advice. They’re all bound by these 25-year-olds who pick whatever is trendy. [The mobile app] hasn’t got into their culture yet, but it will, I’m quite sure. User experience and user interface are becoming so important. In the end, that’s going to make successful products.

44 | The Face Behind the Type

Advice for the Next Generation If you were to give advice to younger designers, web developers, web app makers, what would you tell them? Learn as much about our culture as you possibly can, by reading, by traveling, by involving yourself in things that go on. But don’t become an artist. Don’t think, “I’ll do it intuitively.” You have to learn if not to code at least to appreciate code, to understand code. Because code is what nuts and bolts were a hundred years ago.If you don’t know anything about mechanics, you can’t survive in this world. If you don’t know anything about how a computer works or code works, as a communicator, which is what a designer is — the interface between machines and man, that’s what we are. We are the interface, we interpret what the machine says into visible language. If you don’t understand how the machine works, you’re going to be laughed out of the room by the engineering guys, because you can’t communicate with them.

March typography poster from galerie p98a, 2015

The Face Behind the Type |



46 | The Face Behind the Type

Identifont - Margo Chase. Accessed October 18, 2018. show?1AE. Adams, Sean. “Remembering Margo Chase.” Design Observer. July 28, 2017. Accessed October 2, 2018. Behance, Inc. “Erik Spiekermann: No Free Pitches.” 99U by Behance. March 01, 2018. Accessed October 18, 2018. erikspiekermann-no-free-pitches. Douglas, Ava. “Margo Chase.” History of Graphic Design. Accessed October 11, 2018. the-digital-revolution-and-beyond/1200-margo-chase. “Erik Spiekermann | Biography, Designs and Facts.” Famous Graphic Designers. Accessed October 18, 2018. Malik, Om. “A Conversation With Erik Spiekermann.” A Conversation Series! February 02, 2017. Accessed October 2, 2018. Millman, Debbie. “Remembering Design Visionary Margo Chase.” Print Magazine. July 25, 2017. Accessed October 2, 2018. remembering-design-visionary-margo-chase/. Mooth, Bryn. “Margo Chase on Growing Her Iconic Business.” HOW Design. January 19, 2017. Accessed October 4, 2018. design-news/margo-chase-growing-iconic-business/. Potts, Emily, and Lief Steiner. “Margo Chase: The Future of Packaging.” Moxie Sozo. June 01, 2017. Accessed October 10, 2018. margo-chase-future-packaging/. The Sherwood Group. “Success Ideas from Master Designer, Margo Chase.” The Sherwood Group. May 28, 2014. Accessed October 1, 2018. business-education/margo-chase/#.W8gfQRNKhBx. Spiekermann, Erik. “Spiekerblog.” Spiekerblog | Typomania Is Incurable but Not Lethal. Accessed October 23, 2018. “Margo Chase | History of Graphic Design.” Accessed October 23, 2018.

The Face Behind the Type |


48 | The Face Behind the Type

This booklet was designed with Adobe InDesign CC 2018. Set in Myriad Pro, Caslon 224 Std, and ITC Officina Sans. Printed on 50 lb clear white printer paper, and is bound with standard bookboard.

The Face Behind the Type |


Profile for Hannah Kieffer

The Face Behind the Type | Exhibition Book and Poster  

The Face Behind the Type | Exhibition Book and Poster