In the introduction to his exceptional new Erik Spiekermann monograph, Johannes Erler sums up “Spiekermann in two sentences” by way of this quotation: “I’m totally chaotic. I’m so untogether, my left leg doesn’t even know what my right leg is doing. I need order. I need systems. I don’t really do anything without a design grid.”
This might suggest that we’re in for a fairly rigid retelling of the designer and typographer’s story, but Johannes is a master at drawing out his life as well as cataloguing and celebrating his work. He’s known Erik for 22 years (since he started out at the Meta studio as an intern) and spent five years working on this book, so it’s a well-rounded study of the man who, as publishers Gestalten put it, “not only represents German typeface and corporate design like no other,” but whose work also, “has had an unparalleled influence on contemporary graphic design around the globe.”
The work section of the book is split into seven thematic sections – Erik as typographer, designer, entrepreneur, networker, author, technician and person – and all the design work you’d want and expect from a Spiekermann monograph is present and correct, as well as some work of which many readers might not have previously been aware.
But what really makes Hello, I Am Erik special is the personal and biographical details through which we can contextualise the work – from childhood memories to his time in London – all illustrated with a precious horde of personal photographs. There’s also anecdotes from the likes of the late Wally Olins to Erik’s ex-wife Joan and from Stefan Sagmeister to Michael Bierut.
At one stage in the book Urs Wilmann asks Erik how he would explain the importance of typefaces to a pig farmer. He replies: “Everything we read we perceive rationally and emotionally. When we look at a sentence we react emotionally to its form before we even rationalise its content. That makes it part of the message.” That being so, it’s worth mentioning that Erik designed a typeface called Real for the book, based on a special medium Akzidenz Grotesk. Maybe, just maybe, his left leg does sometimes know what his right leg is doing.
Hello, I Am Erik is available to pre-order now via the Gestalten website.
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