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Hermann Zapf

Indices : Designers : Hermann Zapf

German, born 1918.

Calligrapher and type designer, perhaps the most influential designer of types in the post-WWII era. Designer of Optima, Palatino, Aldus, Zapf Chancery, Zapf Dingbats, Zapfino, and with Akira Kobayashi, Zapfino Extra, Optima nova, Palatino nova, Palatino Sans, and Palatino Sans Informal. Zapf’s most notable achievement is his effortless bridging of the Medieval era with the Information Age; his types are all characterized by their strong calligraphic influence, but more than any of the other designers who came to maturity in the metal type era, he has adapted to the digital era. He also has the dubious honor of having been the victim of one of the 20th Century’s more acrimonious disputes over type piracy; see the entry on Book Antiqua for details.

Zapf’s efforts are not limited to his type and calligraphic work. He has been involved in many of the most significant technological developments in the era of digital typography. From his groundbreaking work with Donald Knuth on TeX to his collaboration with John Hudson, Akira Kobayashi and Adam Twardoch on successive refinements of the semi-sentient script typeface Zapfino, he has not shied away from contemporary developments in type technology.

Perhaps his most significant (and unsung) achievement in this realm was developing the hz-program for URW, a justification engine that used the novel technique of glyph scaling to help achieve even color in extended settings of text. This engine, after several rounds of refinement and licensing, has become the justification engine in Adobe’s InDesign, and is one of the most distinctive typographical features of that program.

Now in his late 80s, Zapf continues to work, drafting letters and practicing calligraphy. He is married to calligrapher and type designer Gudrun Zapf von Hesse.

Additional Articles:
dot-font: Hermann Zapf at 87
Typogabor: Manuale Typographicum

Books & Materials about:

Dreyfus, John & Knut Erichson. Abc-Xyzapf: Fifty Years in Alphabet Design, Wynkyn de Worde Society, London, 1989. A festschrift to honor Hermann Zapf.