Book List of the Week

Typomania: Erik Spiekermann’s Book List

By Steve Kroeter June 14, 2011
Erik Spiekermann

Graphic designer Erik Spiekermann: Edenspiekermann AG (Berlin)

book list

When we talk about the waning of print communication and the waxing of digital communication, one element of the dialogue that retains its importance on both sides of the conversation is typography. Type is important when rendered on paper; it’s important when rendered on computer or mobile phone screens. You could make the case that the digital revolution has even heightened the importance of typography, since so many people constantly read on the web. So a huge part of the information we are exposed to reaches us today, as in the past, via typography. 

Type designers who grew up on print but have successfully migrated to the digital world have had the opportunity to have an outsized impact on contemporary commerce and culture in general, as well as on design in particular. Thus it is fitting that the German Design Council recently awarded Germany’s highest design award, the Lifetime Achievement Award, to Erik Spiekermann.

Pick your way of measuring—designing type (FF Meta, ITC Officina, countless others), teaching type (London College of Printing, University of the Arts Bremen), writing about type (Blueprint, Form, numerous books), doing design projects that utilize type (The Economist, Berlin Transit, Audi), or coming up with innovative ways for distributing type (FontShop)—Spiekermann’s influence on the contemporary world of type is enormous.

If as a result of all this you ended up guessing that Spiekermann has a thing for books, you’d be exactly right—he has about 3,000 of them. For his Designers & Books list of titles that inspire him he says he chose books that “I could reach from my desk at home without getting onto ladders.” 

Reflecting his commitment to students and teaching and also his work as a practitioner, the titles he names can be looked at as a list of essential reading for those who, like Spiekermann, are afflicted with (in his words) an “incurable but not lethal” case of “typomania.”

FontBook, 2006

Among the books he includes are Adrian Frutiger—Typefaces (“This is the best book I have ever seen about the 20th  century’s best type designer) and Ausgewählte Aufsätze über Fragen der Gestalt des Buches und der Typographie (“If you only want to have one book by [Jan] Tschichold, this is it”). His “desert island” typography books? Two by the venerable Hans Rudolf Bosshard, who, Spiekermann says, deserves to be better known beyond the borders of Switzerland.

An additional title to take note of is Spiekermann’s own internationally known reference work FontBook (with Mai-Linh Thi Truong and Jürgen Siebert)—issued in its fourth (and final) edition in 2006. He tells us that at his desk it is always within arm’s reach (no ladder needed) since “I use it every day.”


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