(My Missus has hijacked the blog today, to post her thoughts on a typography presentation she attended the other night. Wisely, I stand aside, and give her the floor.)
The headline to this post are his words, not mine. (Erik Spiekermann that is.)
This was how he opened his presentation on Tuesday night at the Glasgow leg of the ISTD’s Kern Up The Volume tour.
I (and my Whitespace colleagues) only got to hear of this last week as we were huddled around the staff dining table eating lunch and reading Design Week. So I can only assume that that was also the case for the scores of others in the Scottish design community who failed to turn out for the event. Either that or the fact that Barca were playing Chelsea on TV.
Which is a shame, not least because such a big hitter in the world of type and type design as Prof Erik deserves to have a better hearing, but because we can’t expect speakers to come and talk to half empty halls if we don’t support them. Everyone complains that the best gigs are always in London – on last nights evidence, I can understand why.
Any road (I’m from Lancashire), it was a pretty good evening, albeit quite long, but as there were three spiekers, it helped the pace along.
First up was Graham Walker, Creative Director from Graphic Partners* who did a clean, simple presentation showcasing some of the clean, simple design work for which he has (deservedly) won many awards.
After him came Colin Raeburn from Glasgow’s Graphical House. He showed some nice animation work done for the BBC but also an ad for ESPC which I have to say annoyed the hell out of me the first time I saw it. Why is there a French soundtrack? And why the choice of Copperplate Gothic? Oh, because Edinburgh has lots of brass plaques I guess.
After a short but welcome beer break, we were treated to the very entertaining Mr Spiekermann. He sort of reminds me of an older (maybe he’s not), slighter, less scary John Malkovich. And he is funny – yes a funny German! Now I know that he will not mind me saying that, because one thing that Erik Spiekermann does do is take the mickey** out of himself. And he is not afraid to admit, that in most cases, almost all the work he has ever done as come about as a result of his working in collaboration with colleagues. People who can take his not very good (again, his words) sketches and turn them into something wonderful.
As he said, and something with which I wholeheartedly agree and indeed abide by, ‘always employ people who are better than you’.
At one point of his talk I got all nostalgic when he referred to the old German (Berthold) typesetting methods using glass grids and I instantly thought of the large black case-bound type volumes which to us typographers, were like bibles.
Sadly, I seem to remember them being used to prop up mac screens in a later life. Ah well.
The company of which Erik is now a director, www.uniteddesigners.com, have just moved into new offices in Berlin. His explanation of what they wanted in terms of a workplace, resonated particularly closely with myself and what we were looking for when Whitespace moved into it’s new home in Edinburgh’s Randolph Place.
He said they wanted a space where no-one was behind closed doors, where people had to walk through and interact with other people’s spaces to get to the loo or go to the coffee machine. (And apparently, their’s is the best coffee in town.)
As it turns out, the office space they have created looks quite similar to ours. I rather liked that.
At the end of the talk I managed to wangle a couple of business cards (see below), but didn’t get the opportunity to ask him what the relevance of the numbers are. Ideas anyone? I guess I could just email him to ask.
Anyway, I hope the good people of Manchester turned out in their droves the night after and subsequent nights in Bristol and London to support these people who are willing to tour the country (and a foreign one to boot – or should that be Das Boot), sharing their knowledge and educating us along the way.
*I have since found out that Graham Walker handed his notice in that day.
** ‘Taking the mickey’ not understood by my Polish colleague Pavel (himself a very good designer)
Carol Coulter is Design Director of Whitespace based in Edinburgh.
UPDATE: Saturday 04 November:
Erik replies about the Business card design:
From: erik spiekermann|udn <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Sat, 4 Nov 2006 00:39:20 +0000
To: Carol Coulter <email@example.com>
Subject: Re: Thank you
On 03.11.2006, at 09:15, Carol Coulter wrote:
I’d just like to ask you what the significance of the numerals are
on the front....
We had a large poster printed with 256 rectangles on it to represent
the 256 "websafe" colours (that is 2 to the power of 8, or 16 by
16). Every rectangle has one number out of 256 and the hexcode number
for that colour’s RGB value. In my case that is quite a bit of Red
(FF would have been 100%, i.e. a value of 256), and no Green and no
Blue. WE print the cards on the front and just cut them out of the
Thanks for the write up.
best from London (exhausted)