Erik Spiekermann podcast

I was listening to a podcast with graphic design legend Eric Spiekermann yesterday evening.

Erik Spiekermann

It was on my favourite podcast show Dorm Room Tycoon which interviews thought leaders in design, entrepreneurship, and marketing each week.

If you’ve ever picked up a copy of the Economist then you’re familiar with his work [1]. He also stars in the graphic design documentary Helvetica.

When asked about what he appreciates in design it was the following:

  1. Things which work well for a long time.
  2. Things which the creator enjoyed creating.

I was especially taken by the second point.

He illustrates it as follows: you could go into a restaurant which isn’t 5 star, and where the decor isn’t that great, yet still be served an amazing meal. If the person who prepares that meal has a smile on their face and enjoys their work, then this is not only nicer to deal with on a personal level, but the quality of the food is likely to be better too.

We’ve all experienced this ourselves. If we have to prepare a meal and we really don’t want to, then the quality is likely to be poor. However, if we really feel like cooking then the quality and presentation of the meal is likely to be much better.

If we just want to finish a task as quickly as possible, then we’re unlikely to lavish the extra care and attention required to turn it from mediocre to great. And arguably the only time people will put in this extra effort is when they enjoy what they’re doing.

So what practical significance does this have?

Most obviously it tells us that to create the best possible work we have to enjoy what we’re doing. This is pretty much the career advice every parent gives a child - do what you love.

And secondly it reminds us to let people, whether they are our customers or our peers, know just how much we care about what we’re doing. This doesn’t mean overusing empty phrases like “we’re passionate about our customers!” Prove it instead. Attend to the details. Make the packaging great. Don’t leave any loose ends.

This is the root of great design, and great customer experience. Act like you care, because to reach perfection you can’t afford to do anything less.


  1. Article about Spiekermann’s redesign of the Economist.

Further reading

  • Spiekermann is an incredibly prolific type designer - here are some of his fonts.