The Berlin Underground Signage: Tradition and Technology


Berlin, the capital of Germany, is known for its rich history and vibrant art scene. When it comes to the city’s underground signage, a modernist tradition in type design was seamlessly integrated with technological advancements, resulting in a successful and visually appealing passenger information system. In this blog post, we will explore the work of Erik Spiekermann and MetaDesign in creating the renowned Berlin Underground Signage.

Continuing the Legacy of Modernism

Despite the emergence of new technologies in the 1980s, the tradition of modernism in type design did not disappear. Instead, it evolved alongside these technological advancements. Erik Spiekermann, a renowned typographer and founder of MetaDesign, exemplified this continuation of the modernist tradition in his rational work for the Berlin underground system.

Post-Berlin Wall Redesign

After the fall of the Berlin Wall, the city’s public transport system underwent significant changes. New passenger information, including signage and maps, was required. MetaDesign was commissioned to undertake the redesign of the corporate symbol, logotype, and signage for the Berlin transportation network.

A Resounding Success

The work carried out by MetaDesign was highly successful and well-received. The redesigned signage fulfilled its purpose of effectively guiding passengers through the underground network. The quality of the work was so commendable that Berliner Verkehrsbetriebe (BVG), the city’s transport authority, enlisted MetaDesign to establish a complete corporate design program.

Expanding the Scope: Interactive Information Kiosks

Building on the triumph of their initial efforts, MetaDesign is now expanding the scope of their work in enhancing the passenger experience. They are currently engaged in designing fully interactive information kiosks that aim to assist travellers in navigating the Berlin transportation system. This innovative approach combines the power of technology with the principles of efficient information design.

Erik Spiekermann: A Unique Perspective

Erik Spiekermann, the creative force behind MetaDesign, brings a distinctive perspective to type design. Trained as an art historian at Berlin’s Free University in West Germany, Spiekermann established a small press in the late 1960s, demonstrating his early passion for visual communication. His work experience in England during the 1970s further shaped his design sensibilities.

MetaDesign’s Success Stories

MetaDesign and Erik Spiekermann have built a reputation for excellence through their collaborative efforts on various projects. The studio specializes in corporate identity, having worked with notable clients such as H. Berthold AG, the Deutsche Bundespost, and Apple Computers. In 1991, they even created a timetable for the Berlin Transport Authority, showcasing their ability to merge design and functionality seamlessly.

The Fontshop: Bridging Tradition and Innovation

In 1988, Erik Spiekermann co-founded the Fontshop, an influential company that markets typefaces. This venture acts as a vital outlet for both radical and commercial fonts. One of Spiekermann’s most renowned typefaces, Meta, has gained immense popularity in electronic fonts, making it a widely used choice for signing systems and magazine design.

In Conclusion

The Berlin Underground Signage stands as a testament to the successful integration of tradition and technology in design. Erik Spiekermann and MetaDesign have brought together their respect for history and tradition with their commitment to innovation, resulting in a functional and visually appealing system. As they continue to push boundaries in their design endeavours, we can eagerly anticipate the fully interactive information kiosks that will enhance the traveller’s experience in Berlin’s public transportation network.


McDermott, C. (2008). Contemporary Design: Date, 1900-today. United Kingdom: Carlton Books.


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