FF Real Text and FF Real Head: Two neutral but friendly families for more than just booksNaturally, Erik Spiekermann’s biography needs its own font and – naturally – it must come from Spiekermann himself. The designer has used the book “Hallo ich bin Erik” as an opportunity to realize an old wish. He had always wanted to use a special, lean, medium-bold poster style of the Akzidenz Grotesk® typeface as a template for a new font. This Grotesque is, in Spiekermann’s own words, the only true, unadulterated, royal sans serif. He named the new typeface FF Real. Spiekermann first drew two styles, one for text and one for headlines. Ralph Olivier du Carrois later cleaned up and adjusted their outlines. Next, both designers expanded the drafts to FF Real™ Text and FF Real™ Head with 13 styles each.
The references to the early sans serif fonts of the 20th century are clearly recognizable in the shapes of FF Real. A large x-height, open counters, a slightly structured character and the almost imperceptible contrast in stroke thickness recall fonts like Helvetica®, Arial® or Univers®, fonts that also take their bearings from the early sans serifs. With small, individual details and some special letter forms, however, Spiekermann succeeded in giving FF Real Text its own friendly and lively character. He was also able to design a legible typeface with letters that are clearly distinguishable from one another – something no less important. As in many other Spiekermann fonts, the lower-case “g” has been designed in the two-story Roman version. The small “l” has a foot and the upper-case “I” has serifs. In addition, the diagonal bar in the “y” is slightly offset, and the points are designed so as to be round. The debate between Spiekermann and du Carrois over the last two design variants ended in a compromise. To compensate for the offset bar in “y”, which Spiekermann wanted, du Carrois was able to add alternative characters with angular points. FF Real Text is available in 13 finely graded weights, from Hairline to Black. The more narrow styles emphasize the noble character of the font and the bolder styles appear very compact and friendly. There is no italic, although small caps, ligatures, various number sets and a number of symbols round out the options. FF Real Head expands the FF Real Text into a super family. The basic shape of the letters as well as the number of weights is identical in both families. FF Real Head, however, is aimed at use in larger font sizes and the optimizations for legibility – the round foot in the “l” or serifs in the “I” – are not included. The additional character options are identical to that of FF Real Text. Alternative characters with angular points, small caps, ligatures, various number sets and a number of symbols are available here, as well. In the biography “Hallo ich bin Erik”, FF Real Text and FF Real Head have survived their baptism by fire and demonstrated that both typefaces cut a very good figure as book text. The two well-equipped, perfectly legible fonts and their neutral yet friendly character also work extremely well in other projects, as well, whether in print or on the Web. As a very special feature, Erik Spiekermann not only produced his font digitally, but also had it cut into wood at a size of 16 cicero.