Erik Spiekermann

Graphic Designer / Germany / Edenspiekermann AG Amsterdam Berlin Stuttgart San Francisco

Erik Spiekermann’s Book List

This list was in my head, and I was thinking that getting the details and writing a few lines for each title would take a leisurely Sunday afternoon. It turned out to be a busy Friday morning instead. I’ve made this list from all the books I could reach from my desk at home without getting onto ladders. I have about 3,000 books, so there could easily be many more. As there is intelligent life outside the U.S., I have included some of my favorite books in German as well.

11 books
Adrian Frutiger
Heidrun Osterer Editor
Philipp Stamm Editor

This is the best book I have ever seen about the 20th century’s best type designer and shows images and projects that have never been published elsewhere. I helped with the adaptation into English.

Jan Tschichold

If you only want to have one book by Tschichold, this is it. If it hadn't already been translated into English, I would say it would be worth learning German for.

Suntory Museum Editor

This is a brilliant book about contemporary product design in the guise of an exhibition catalogue, designed and produced in Japan.

Hans Rudolf Bosshard

Bosshard is one of the grand old men of Swiss design and deserves to be better known abroad. This volume (“Mathematical Foundations of Typesetting”), along with Bosshard’s Technische Grundlagen zur Satzherstellung (“Technical Foundations of Typesetting”), would be my desert island typography books. They contain everything there is to be known about the mathematical and technical principles behind typesetting (as the German titles—these are not available in English—say). You can learn to add in hexadecimal, compare all the systems of proportion ever invented and the mathematical rules behind them, find out how to mark up type (a dead but important art), and look up the formats of books, magazines, and newspapers from around the world. I still have no idea how the author and his sons managed to gather and display all this information and live to write more books since.

Robin Kinross

Kinross is one of the best writers on typography and also the man behind Hyphen Press. I buy all Hyphen’s books unseen.

Timothy Donaldson

Why alphabets look like they do, what has happened to them since printing was invented, why they won’t ever change, and how it might have been.

Timothy Donaldson calls himself a “letterworker.” I know him as one of the best calligraphers and letterers around who infuses his work not with quasi-religious vigor but with English humor and a great deal of spontaneity. I cannot do better than Ken Garland, himself a well-respected designer and writer, who writes in the foreword: “This is a work many of us have been waiting for: one that brings together information on topics as diverse as the organs of speech, hieroglyphics, the development of the minuscule, maritime signal flags, the qwerty keyboard, semaphore and many others …”

The charts—one for each of the 26 letters—are complex and comprehensive and beautiful at the same time. There are many more illustrations, all made for this book. Whenever students of visual communication ask for my recommendation, I mention Shapes for Sounds as the first thing they should read. It is as entertaining and well-designed as any coffee-table book and offers a wealth of information beyond the good looks.

Hans Rudolf Bosshard

See comments for Bosshard’s Mathematische Grundlagen zur Satzherstellung.

Ruari McLean Editor

Great essays from all the relevant typographers between 1895 and 1990. Deserves a second volume to bring it into the present.

Theodore Rosendorf

For all your friends who want just one volume that helps them understand what makes a good book and an easy-to-read page.

A beautiful book, perfect as a little present. Looks like a novel from the outside, bound in gray cloth with a black reading band and blind-embossed with TDR on the front, with the author’s name and the title running down the spine, embossed in black.

Theodore Rosendorf explains all the elements of a page and a book; the foreword by Ellen Lupton explains what a foreword is, and the author himself writes in the Introduction that this is “Usually placed after a foreword, preface or acknowledgement …”. This is followed by Terms, from the A series paper standards to work and turn/work and tumble. He then lists all the glyphs we may encounter, including—to his credit—those that may seem obscure to an American readership not familiar with all the diacritics used in languages beyond English, i. e., most of them.

Anatomy & Form shows and explains letterforms while Classification & Specimens shows just enough different alphabets beyond the boring classics as to actually make this a useful list. Further Reading shows a long and interesting list not only of books but also of websites, and the Index is one of the longest and most useful ones in a book of this kind.

All this is carefully typeset and beautifully printed. A fine book indeed.

Gill is one of my heroes. He uses plain language and common sense, both in this book and in all his work. And the book is set in my FF Meta.

Per Mollerup

An unusual approach to wayfinding, as the title implies. The most concise and useful book on the topic by an author from Denmark whose work I admire.

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