Erik Spiekermann's favorite fonts  MAR 30 2004

Erik Spiekermann's favorite fonts. He created the Meta and Officina typefaces and now has a weblog.

There are 30 reader comments

Robert J. Bingaman33 30 2004 6:33PM

It's sort of strange that his site and the fonts he chooses to use on that are so poor looking.

bing47 30 2004 6:47PM

That's the problem with webpages; the font selection is limited by the viewer's computer. Another reason to self-select a high-bandwith audience with a flash interfaces.

My favorite typeface is Parisine. I really wish I had an excuse to buy it.

dotsara09 30 2004 7:09PM

It's no so much the fonts that bother me, but the bright red against the dark gray that makes my eyes jump.

A lot.

jojo13 30 2004 8:13PM

A font designer does not a web designer make (and vice versa).

Robert J. Bingaman53 30 2004 8:53PM

jojo - I'm sure that's true. And bing, I know what you're talking about, but still - there are *tatesful* options within the basic set of most default fonts. I just mean that first of all - you would think someone who toils over creating a type face would be able to look at this page's text and say "yeah, this is awful." And second, although jojo's point is a good one, you'd think there would be some taste involved in the actual design as well. Even if its simple.

Something about that red hurts my eyes.

jkottke04 30 200410:04PM

Spiekermann explains the rationale behind the not-so-hot design:

"This is not about me showing whether I am a good designer. It’s just about getting content published quickly and with as little effort as possible."

dowingba24 30 200410:24PM

I hate when people justify awful designs by saying, "Well I'm not here to show off my design skills." Okay, but make it readable please. Black text on white background works, or vise versa.

jojo22 31 2004 1:22AM

Spiekermann's explanation:
This is not about me showing whether I am a good designer. It’s just about getting content published quickly and with as little effort as possible.

cop out alert!

His site certainly doesn't look like the default template for iBlog. That means he had to put some thought into #ff0000 on top of #bfbfbf (must be too good for the ol' #cccccc).

I'm kind of disappointed to see he didn't blame the look on the client.

Robert J. Bingaman13 31 2004 4:13AM

I understand content-central designs, but choosing fonts and color combos that make something pleasant and easy to read takes just as long as this design did - with taste. That's the strange part I brought up in the beginning. You'd think he'd have it.

barnes40 31 200410:40AM

Perhaps it's like the two-barber game. If there are two barbers, you go to the one with the bad haircut. Except in this case, Spiekermann has to cut his own hair, and no barbers are good at that, if you get my meaning.

NOTE: I don't get my meaning.

delshimandle22 31 200411:22AM

Cop out alert indeed!
I can't imagine him giving the same advice to a client, nor letting a client slip in such a lame justification.
Er verlor gerade meinen Respekt!

nothanks45 31 200411:45AM

I love the general lack of attention to detail that he shows on his blog. That's awesome. Some real craftsmanship there. That definitely brings him down a few notches on my personal scale.

ram49 31 200411:49AM

Is it at all possible that someone who designs typefaces knows nothing about laying out a web page on a computer? No, I guess that would be impossible. If he likes gray and red, let him keep the colours. I'm sure he isn't trying to impress anyone with his blog. I imagine his typefaces are what get him clients.

nothanks04 31 2004 1:04PM

That's true, ram. There's no correlation between visual design and typography at all. At ALL.

delshimandle58 31 2004 1:58PM

What he knows about web design/layout isn't the issue. If he merely didn't know how to use Photoshop and Dreamweaver he could be "forgiven" for a poor interface.

But he CHOSE ugly colors that are hard to look at, clunky typography, and worst of all, he's basically confessed to not caring about the experience of his audience! Furthermore, it is also, more or less, a repudiation of all of his previous writings on design, you know, the articles/books, lectures in which he waxes haughty about design and creativity issues.

Yea...

he's gone down a few notches alright.

ryan25 31 2004 2:25PM

The site uses Movable Type. I'll bet Photoshop and Dreamweaver never even entered the equation (yes, I know they can - blah blah). Also, his weblog is not THAT old. Maybe give him more than a few weeks to figure out what to do with it. In any case, please cut the guy some slack - he's created some outstanding typefaces.

Robert J. Bingaman52 31 2004 2:52PM

"he's created some outstanding typefaces."

- Exactly, that's why its all kind of disturbing, you'd think that at least some small amount of talent would come naturally - even with Movable Type. My sister's blog looks better than this. She learned about design never.

ram09 31 2004 3:09PM

My point was that you should criticize a man based on his web page. At the end of the day, it's just a web page. Typeface designer or not, it's just an ugly web page — who really cares? Also, you don't like Grey and Red. Fine. What if Spiekermann does? Or his wife does? It's a personal page. The site is for no one but himself really.

Robert J. Bingaman18 31 2004 3:18PM

No one but himself - absolutely true, a good point, and one I like to make about my own blog. I'm not really asking him to change anything, and I'm not trying to be too critical. My original comment was a somewhat bewildered comment and nothing more - it just seems strange that its as ugly as it is - that's it.

It's sort of like Frank Gehry's house - its his house, his thing, but its weird, cause its ugly and bad, and he's a talented world-changing guy. I suppose that's a bad example though, cause I don't think he's that great.

Dan10 31 2004 5:10PM

Why are fonts so expensive? $150 per license, per machine? Ouch.

Dan11 31 2004 5:11PM

Not that I dont appreciate the work that goes into it, of course...

jojo38 31 2004 5:38PM


ram wrote
My point was that you should criticize a man based on his web page. At the end of the day, it's just a web page.

At the end of the day it's just a book cover. Or a magazine layout. Or a title screen. It's just an ascender - how important can that be?

Typeface designer or not, it's just an ugly web page — who really cares?

Nobody using the internet cares what a web page looks like. That's why we're all still using Mosaic, no, wait - Lynx, right?

Also, you don't like Grey and Red. Fine. What if Spiekermann does? Or his wife does? It's a personal page. The site is for no one but himself really.

Riiiiight... That's why he put it on the web.

If anyone still really believes that people put stuff on the web solely for themselves, unplug their phone/cable/ethernet connection and let them blog in unending self-filled bliss.

I flashed the cop-out alert signal because Spiekermann's explanation is simply lame and untrue:

It’s just about getting content published quickly and with as little effort as possible.

Were that the case, the default MT template or one of the many pre-fabbed skins/styles would have easily sufficed (quick, effortless...)

Therein lies the cop-out.

dowingba47 31 2004 9:47PM

iBlog, not MT, but the point still stands.

sam34 01 200411:34AM

Fonts are so expensive because very few people buy them. It's like 3d graphics programs - if everybody needed a 3d graphics program then 3d graphics programs would cost the same as word processing programs, instead of costing the same as cars.

Fonts are a hell of a lot less work to make than a 3d graphics program, but they'll sell to an even smaller audience. (There are only a few 3d graphics programs but there are many thousands of fonts.)

Of course you could argue that maybe if they were cheaper more people would buy them, but I think most of the people who won't pay $150 for a font probably won't pay $25 or even $1 for it. Most people are probably happy with the fonts that you can get legally for free (if they want something flashy) or the fonts that come with Windows (if they don't).

None of this means it isn't annoying that fonts are so expensive because it is. I'm not a professional designer; consequently I've only ever bought one font in my life (well, two fonts, one typeface), plus one cheap collection cd. There are a number of really nice fonts I'd have bought for $25 but not for $150+ :) Still I'm a rarity, I think most people would balk at $25 for a whole typeface even if it came with 10 styles.

erik spiekermann35 02 2004 7:35PM

If anyone still really believes that people put stuff on the web solely for themselves, unplug their phone/cable/ethernet connection and let them blog in unending self-filled bliss.

Quite. If anybody here had overcome their prejudice -- sorry: taste -- and read (no pun intended) some more of my blog, you would have seen that i do this mainyl to preempt all the email i get from students who are doing a project about me/my typefaces/typography/design/life etc. As i have answered most of the questions before, a blog seemed a perfect way of repurposing all my materials.



I flashed the cop-out alert signal because Spiekermann's explanation is simply lame and untrue:

It’s just about getting content published quickly and with as little effort as possible.

Were that the case, the default MT template or one of the many pre-fabbed skins/styles would have easily sufficed (quick, effortless...)

Well, it is true. I make a living as a designer (fonts are only a sideline, btw), but not for other designers, but clients. So if i come down a notch or 2 on somebody's scale doesn't worry me too much (although it hurts). So i picked the dummest software i could find: iBlog and spent a few hours to see how much i could influence it without getting into stylesheets and css. Turns out that i could very easily change background colours and the colours of the navigation bars. But not the size of the type (except in the rss feed), the leading or anything else. I use red bars, because i am famous for always using red bars ;-) and because they stick out. Certainly caught y'alls attention!

And i use a grey background because black type on a very white background (screen, not paper, backlight etc) is actually bad for your eyes. A nice chamois tone would have been better, but than i hate those soppy cute colours. My previous website (all done in xml) was grey and red, and those are known to be my favourite colours. And what some people deem ugly, sticks out from all those white blogs. I would prefer to use another typeface, of course, but this is html! Probably comes out in Arial and all sorts of shit, but i cannot influence that. Verdana may be big and clunky, but sure reads well black on grey. And long text is never red on grey. I did go overboard with the red at first, but now i juts keep it to the rss feed.

I have also written, that i will upgrade to Movable Type at some point, get into css and all that. But right now, this blogs serves the purpose. It takes me 10 minutes a day. (except for these long mails)


I am 56 years old, and i'll be damned if i am going to go and become an html expert at this point. And note this: how many bilingual blogs do you know? I have to please a readership not just in bush-voting middle america, but mainly in europe where i come from and live most of the time.

To all you i say:
don't mention words like "ugly", because that is not a benchmark we can all agree on;
don't double-guess someone's motives;
don't presume stuff without checking your facts, like criticizing type choices without knowing why they were made or speculating on software without looking first (made with MT... when there's the iBlog logo right on the page)

And any of you could have used the feedback button on my blog.

best from san francisco,

erik

jojo53 03 2004 1:53PM

Erik - you'll notice that I never commented or criticized the look, design, or typeface choice of your blog, other than the fact that someone had spent some time deciding what it should look like. I also noted in my first post that you were using iBlog, but someone else said it was MT. Therefore in my second post I used MT - I thought that perhaps iBlog offered a plug-in for MT or something - my bad.

My point was the explanation of the design (re-posted here by kottke) was lame. The explanation you posted here is what you should put on your blog.

I was on your side when I quoted people who were actually double-guessing your motives (re-read my post). I was with you right through "I am 56 years old, and i'll be damned if i am going to go and become an html expert at this point." That was a great sentence and said it all.

But tooting your blog's bi-lingual horn? Wha?

I also don't get the bit about "pleasing a larger readership than bush-voting middle america" - is that really who you think was commenting on your blog? Or was that statement pointing out that your design is instead intended to satisfy the "coastal democratic voting U.S." and European aesthetic? The statement is more than slightly presumptuous no matter how you read it.

Otherwise, great and enlightening post.

erik spiekermann59 03 2004 4:59PM

> also don't get the bit about "pleasing a larger readership than bush-voting middle america" - is that really who you think was commenting on your blog? Or was that statement pointing out that your design is instead intended to satisfy the "coastal democratic voting U.S." and European aesthetic? The statement is more than slightly presumptuous no matter how you read it.
Yes, touché. I was simply a little bored by comments using "ugly" and admitting that they'd never bought a font, but were obviously qualified to judge design and the price of fonts:

> Fonts are so expensive because very few people buy them
That is about as dumb as it can get. Or just naive. But if you have no idea about a subject, why write about it in public? At least put that sort of statement into a question and i might have been inclined to answer.

Well: my blog is not aimed at people at large. It is squarely meant for other designers. And they, strangely enough, prefer to read content and not be awed by another great website. I've run plenty of projects with great websites and we have won all the prizes possible, i think (i don't collect medals) But i am not out to impress some kids with no idea about my background or why fonts actually cost money. That may sound arrogant, but nobody pays me to train america's youth. And most of the comments showed that hardly anyone of them had actually read anything in the blog. Red on grey (have you noticed: i went and made it lighter) seemed to press enough buttons. Which - again - proves my point: this is about content.

> But tooting your blog's bi-lingual horn? Wha?
Would you read it if i wrote in my native language only? Does anybody here read anything out there that isn't in english? You're missing a large part of the world. And even those who don't think in but write english as it is the default web language, are often frustrated because they know that they cannot get everything across. I'm trying to be a little more inclusive, that's all. And doing most of it in 2 languages is a lot more trouble. And the readership in europe has been commenting on the content, mostly. (everybody can see that the navigation sucks)


Watch this space, the next version, later this summer, will be MT and may even have a bit of Flash in it. I'm not too old to learn, just lazy.

Thanks for your constructive comments.

Joshua Hamilton56 13 2004 3:56PM

I'm a student doing a project about Erik Spiekermann and didn't email him because the information provided on his web site either answered my questions or gave me a starting point from which to research. It's amazing how so many people seem to have completely missed the point and need things spoon fed to them.
Speaking of missing the point, there was, like, one person who even attempted discussing the subject.... Akzidenz Grotesk isn't my favourite, but out of the bunch I'm partial to it most.

This thread is closed to new comments. Thanks to everyone who responded.

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