Erik Spiekermann: FF Meta

FontFont (FF) Meta is a typeface family created by the renowned German type designer Erik Spiekermann. Released in 1991, this typeface is derived from a previous unused commission for the Deutsche Bundespost (German Federal Post Office), specifically for identification tags and labels. However, when the typeface was never used in production, Spiekermann and his company MetaDesign released the font on FontShop, one of the first digital font shops (and where the typeface is still available to this day). 

In “Stop Stealing Sheep & Find Out How Type Works”, E.M. Ginger describes FF Meta as the “Helvetica of the 1990’s”, known for its usability in wide number of settings (such as the corporate logos of The Weather Channel to the signage in Fort Wayne International Airport), without the “boring and blandness” that Spiekermann describes Helvetica as (Spiekermann and Ginger 2003). This typeface has been the inspiration for many other fonts, such as Fira Sans and Fira Code, the most popular typeface used by programmers and computer scientists today. 

The main innovation of FF Meta is its ability to overcome all of the shortcomings of Helvetica, all while staying readable and usable in corporate settings. Helvetica was designed for a “best case” use scenario – large printing sizes, not digital (as this did not exist yet), printing on high quality paper, and no space constraints. With the Deutsche Bundespost, the typeface was designed to be a workhorse, able to be “very legible, particularly in small sizes”, “neutral”, “identical on all typesetting systems”, “economical in its application, i.e. space-saving”, being able to be printed on problematic paper stock, handles uneven inking, and has minimal line feeds to save space (Spiekermann 2005). Lastly, a core innovation was this typeface was designed with the computer in mind, especially with the technological limitations of screens prior to higher resolutions. 



Spiekermann, Erik; Ginger, E. M. (2003). Stop Stealing Sheep & Find Out How Type Works (Second ed.). Berkeley, California: Adobe Press.

Spiekermann, E. (2005, May). Post Mortem or: How I once designed a typeface for Europe’s biggest company. Spiekermann.

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