The avalanche of fan e-mail, likes, and tweets that greeted our recent dispatch from Erik Spiekermann‘s evening with the Type Directors Club at Parsons The New School for Design has inspired us to glean additional knowledge morsels for your reading pleasure. Enjoy these ten things you (probably) didn’t know about the man, the myth, the Spiekermann:
1. He got his start as a gofer for Wolff Olins.
In the mid-1970s, while working the nightshift at a typesetter’s, Wally Olins hired him to work for Wolff Olins in London. “They had 60 or 70 people at the time and lots of German clients [such as Audi and VW],” said Spiekermann. “Some of them couldn’t communicate with their German clients, because the German clients spoke German and the Brits spoke English—at the time not everybody spoke English, unlike today—so I became the gofer, I guess, between the German clients and Wolff Olins.”
2. He used to blow clients’ minds with color prints.
“[In the mid-70s] you would go into clients with color printouts…11 by 17…and it was like glass beads for Native Americans—they would think you were from Mars. They would pass them around,” he explained. “I had the same effect after German reunification in 1990, when we had a client in East Germany and we went there with color prints. By that time in the West everyone had them, but they thought we were from Mars: ‘Look at these guys from the West. They have color prints! Amazing! They have a machine does them. And it’s on ordinary paper and it only take a minute!’ It was like having gunpowder.”
3. Wolff Olins is also to thank for his first project.
“It was a German bank that was Wolff Olins couldn’t handle, so they said why don’t you take this over—the implementation. Because the Brits were never very good at getting sh*t done.”
4. He is wholly unimpressed by the U.S. Postal Service.
“The American Post Office is one of the crummiest design outfits ever,” said Spiekermann matter-of-factly. “It is embarrassingly bad. It embarrasses me at times. So does their service for that matter. UPS and FedEx—they wouldn’t exist if you had a decent post office.”