Prof. Dr. h.c. Erik Spiekermann Wins Personality Award At German Design Awards 2011

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News | Jürgen Siebert | February 14, 2011

Friday February 11th, in Frankfurt/Main, the German Design Council (Rat für Formgebung) presented the Personality Award 2011 to Erik Spiekermann – co-founder of FontShop and FontFont, and mentor of The FontFeed. Known as the “Prize of Prizes”, the Design Award of the Federal Republic of Germany (Designpreis Deutschland) is the country’s highest distinction in the field of design. The reason: no other design award sets such strict criteria on entries. The laudatory speech was given by John L. Walters, publisher of Eye, the renowned British “International review of graphic design” with a focus on typography. This underlines one of the main reasons for this recognition – the typographic œuvre of the founder of MetaDesign and EdenSpiekermann. His type designs ITC Officina, FF Meta, FF Info, FF Unit, Axel,… as well as his exclusive corporate typefaces for the Deutsche Bahn (designed with Christian Schwartz, Gold Medal at the German Federal Design Prize in 2006), Nokia, Bosch,… are used world-wide. This is also emphasized by Johannes Erler, Board Member Factor Design AG, Hamburg, in his excellent contribution The communication powerhouse, written for the German Design Council, organiser of the Award.

Andrej Kupetz, General Manager of the German Design Council presents the Personality Award 2011 to Erik Spiekermann.

How can we measure the importance or the influence of a graphic designer? There are no ratings, like for TV shows, there is no print run, like for magazines or books, there are no such things as weekly Design Charts, like for music. Statistics and enquiries help with the evaluation. It is safe to assume that whoever gives ten lectures a year is in demand. The cumulated flight miles give a clear indication of the international charisma of a creative. Others consider the number of publications, be it scientific papers or books. Certainly the turnover of a communication agency is a criterion for its quality. But even if one has all the relevant numbers this doesn’t mean an evaluation will be entirely objective. Award juries can debate for hours at length about whether the body of work, the sphere of influence, or the qualifications of a person are of chief importance when awarding a prize.

Thanks to the internet, for the last decade we have had finer methods for measuring at our disposal in order to determine the influence of a person or business. Statistic values such as page views, the Google-Ranking or RSS subscribers can be consulted accurately at any time. Nevertheless those are only quantitative data, which don’t reveal anything about the quality of those web page visitors – their motives, origin, nor judgement.

Erik Spiekermann at TYPO Berlin 2010 Passion. Photo by Gerhard Kassner

Something entirely different however is Web 2.0, with as prime example Twitter, employed by countless professionals as a means of publicity and self-promotion. It was introduced publicly in the summer of 2006, and nowadays almost everybody knows how it works. Twitter users send SMS-like messages of maximum 140 characters into the world. Those can viewed by any visitor of Twitter, which may decide to follow the sender on Twitter. This kind of communication made Barack Obama win an election campaign with. He is now followed by 6.6 million people world-wide, who receive a message of the president of the united States 10 to 12 times per week.

Well… the US president is featured in the news on a daily basis, and arguably the most powerful man in the world. Lady Gaga is also followed by millions, being a pop star and a highly visible public figure. So why should anyone follow a graphic designer on Twitter? Are there any designers at all on Twitter? The answer is: there are there hundreds, amongst them important creative agencies like Interbrand or Pentagram, popular design publications, museums, and several dozens of design celebrities. Among them one has 115,000 followers. His Twitter name? @espiekermann.

Without any support from television, music sales, nor Hollywood, Erik Spiekermann exceeds ratings of 100,000, because he makes design and typography understandable, because he lives and breathes design and typography, because he pulls design and typography from their pedestal. Now that is influence.

Erik Spiekermann on Erik Spiekermann visited Erik Spiekermann at his home and did a wonderful interview with him at the occasion of the German Design Lifetime Achievement Award 2011.

Erik Spiekermann – Putting Back the Face into Typeface from Gestalten on Vimeo.

Typographer, graphic designer and businessman Erik Spiekermann has created timeless, influential and, yes, Meta-physical work over the past three decades.

Next to founding MetaDesign and FontShop, the latter being the first ever digital distributor of fonts, and designing more instant classic typefaces than any other, he has been recognized as an outstanding expert internationally as a lecturer and professor.

Listen to the design genius talk about new visual languages, design processes, the analogies of music and typography, and why we need better client culture in our latest video and you will easily realize why. Before heading to new visionary pastures, the bike enthusiast will make a short stop to receive the German Design Lifetime Achievement Award 2011 in February.

Erik Spiekermann by Marc Eckardt

Header image: Erik Spiekermann at the German Design Award, with Andrej Kupetz (left).

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  1. Erik,
    congratulations or in Dutch ‘Gefeliciteerd’.
    You deserve it!

    Posted by Henk Gianotten on Feb. 15, 2011
  2. Niet slecht Erik.

    Posted by Niko Spelbrink on Feb. 16, 2011
  3. dear erik,
    though many letters and minutes pass from the time we met,
    i do want to congratulate you, as “every move you make”‘
    makes typography and the written books more manageable to the world.

    gefeliciteerd, all the best, varda

    Posted by varda raz de miranda on Feb. 17, 2011
  4. Lieber Erik
    Herzliche Gratulation. Den hat Du redlich verdient.
    See you at TYPO Berlin


    Posted by Manfred Fäh on Feb. 17, 2011
  5. Dear Erik:

    Congratulations, too, from all your fans and admirers on this side of the Atlantic! It is hard to imagine a more appropriate award for you: The German Design Lifetime Achievement Award! Perfect! Although the truth is it seems as though you have made enough contributions already for several lifetimes. We are looking forward to sharing the list of books you feel were important to developing your philosophies of life and your principles of design.


    Steven W. Kroeter
    Editor in Chief
    Designers & Books

    Posted by Steve Kroeter on Mar. 18, 2011

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