Erik Spiekermann

Professor, typography designer

My message

Mentioning creativity and innovation in one sentence together is actually redundant.

Whenever we apply creative thinking, innovation is inevitable.

I am a designer of visual communication. Design is an intellectual activity, followed by the application of manual and technical skills. In our work, we use artistic means, like sketching, drawing, painting even. We do not, however, visualize our own ideas or problems, but put our heads and hands at the service of our clients. We are paid for being creative, but in the framework of solving tangible problems. More often than not, the physical outcome of our work is less important than the process that generates ideas, inspires other people and may lead to solutions way beyond the original brief.

Unfortunately in my business, the word “Creativity” has almost become a derisory term. Some people simply refer to it as the “C” word. It has come to describe all those activities that cannot really be defined properly with the language of facts. Everybody wants to be creative – just keeping their collar unbuttoned or growing their hair a little already seems to signify creativity for a lot of people.

There is nothing wrong with being creative even in that harmless sense, as long as that is not used as an excuse to avoid responsibility for one’s action. Creativity as therapy – whether knitting your own sweaters, arranging your flowers or making your own furniture – may be useful for the individual while harmless for society. Too bad that those private definitions of creativity often serve to discriminate the creative process altogether.

Creativity is not about having the Big Idea. It is about applying lateral thinking to solving problems. It means avoiding saying No to everything we cannot imaging doing. It means thinking out of the box, putting ourselves into other peoples’ minds, looking at a problem or a situation from the other side of where we normally stand. This is difficult and even frightening for most of us, because we have learnt lots of rules and have become very good at applying them. Some professions, like lawyers or accountants, cannot possibly allow creative thinking, as that would endanger the status quo which they are paid to protect. Or so they think. Creative accountancy has, consequently, negative connotations.

Engineers are afraid of being creative because they believe strongly in physical laws like gravity, which no amount of creativity can overcome. That is why the skeptics never thought man could fly. But inventors thought out of the box and overcame the physical obstacles of muscle mass versus weight by inventing machines that could achieve what our arms couldn’t.

Gravity is an undeniable law of nature, but it was overcome by applying creative thinking and by building tools that hadn’t existed before. Hunger, poverty and war also seem to be accepted as facts of life. I strongly believe that, if we applied creative thinking to solving those problems, we can find solutions. And we will. Just invite us “Creatives” into the process and let us contradict you.

Contact me

My professional / business address

Edenspiekermann Friedrichstraße 126
10117, Berlin, Germany

Prinsengracht 89 1018 VR
Amsterdam The Netherlands

368 Vallejo Street
San Francisco, CA 941337 USA

26-27 Great Sutton Street
London EC1V 0DS United Kingdom

e-mail address

Berlin: Work + 49 30 212 8080
Amsterdam: + 31 20 712 3000
London: +44 20 7017 8488
USA: +1 415 350 3314

Berlin: + 49 30 212 80810
Amsterdam: +31 20 712 3000
London: + 44 20 7017 8489

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Logo: European Year of Creativity and Innovation 2009
Erik Spiekermann

Erik Spiekermann