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Following the success of his most popular typeface FF Meta, Erik Spiekermann worked with Christian Schwartz to release FF Unit in 2003. The key challenge was creating a new typeface that would have enough character to distinguish itself without calling too much attention. It would need to be legible at small sizes, but with heavy weights for headlines.
Erik describes the differences between FF Meta and FF Unit: "FF Unit is the grown-up, no-nonsense sister of FF Meta. With FF Unit, puppy fat is off, some curves are gone and the shapes are tighter. While FF Meta has always been a little out-of-line and not exactly an over-engineered typeface, FF Unit is less outspoken and more disciplined. It is -- like FF Meta -- very suitable for use quite small and large, but FF Unit lacks some of the diagonal strokes and curves that give FF Meta its slight informality. However, FF Unit is not cold or uptight, just cool: no redundant ornamentation, just a lot of character. The tighter shapes make it suitable for big headlines set tight. Smaller sizes benefit from the increased contrast between vertical and horizontal strokes and open spacing."