Hermann Zapf, A Typographer
Length: 1210 words (3.5 double-spaced pages)
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Hermann Zapf was born around the end of World War I, famine had struck the country and his mother had just enough money to send him to school in 1925.
While he was in school, Zapf perferred technical subjects. But even though he was so young, Zapf was already getting involved with type, exchanging secret alphabets with messages only his brother and him could read.
Once he graduated he wanted to pursue
a career in electrical engineering but he wasn't
able to attend the technical college he was planning on attending due to the new political form of government
in office. So he went for an apprenticeship with some of his teachers, but they noticed the new political difficulties, and suggested that he because
a lithographer due to his skill in drawing. He was continually rejected in interviews based on his politcal answers to the questions that were asked. But then the last company didn't
ask any of these types of quetions so he was hired as a retoucher, since they werent in need of an apprentice lithographer.
Zapf was first interested in lettering after he attended an exhibition in honor of a typographer. Zapf boughta couple of books there, to teach himself calligraphy and he studied examples of calligraphy in the city library. Pretty soon, his expertise in calligraphy was getting recognized at work, and his retouching shifted to letter retouching. AFter the apprentinceship there, he worked at a company in typography and writing songbooks. Then in 1938, he designed a fraktur type called Gilgengart for them, which was his first printed typeface.
During the war, Zapf was too careless and clumsy to fight so he was sent to Jüterbog to train as a cartographer. In the cartography unit, Zapf drew maps of Spain. Zapf was happy to be in the cartography unit because his eyesight was excellent. He didn't
need a magnifying glass to write letters 1 millimeter in size. A skill that possibly saved him from being drafted back into the army. After the war had ended, he started to teach calligraphy lessons in Nuremberg in 1946. He thengot a job offer from a type company Stempel who offered him a high position as an artistic head of the company.He also taught calligraphy lessons at the Arts and Crafts School in Offenbach he met his wife there, who was also a teacher of typography there.
Zapf designed various progressions of type for the newely found printing technology, such as hot metal composition, phototypesetting and eventually digital typography. His two most famous typefaces, Palatino and Optima, were designed around this time in 1950.
Surprisingly enough, Zapf was not given many jobs in calligraphy. One of the only jobs and largest jobs he had was writing the Preamble to the United Nations Charter in four differnet languages, the job paid $1000 in 1960.
On the 1960s, Zapf spent most of time on computer programs. He moved to the US because
his ideas were rejected many times in Germany. There, is ideas were widely respected, he states that the US is more open to new ideas than other
places. One of his highlights of his life was when he was invited to speak about his ideas about computerized typesetting, at Harvard University in 1964.
In 1976, the Rochester Institute of Technology offered Zapf a job as a professor to teach typographic computer programming. This was the first of its kind in the history of type. He had connections with companies like Xerox and IBM. his discussions with the computer specialists at Rochester helped develop is ideas even futher.
While he was teaching there, he along with some friends started a company called "Design Processing International, Inc." in New York which developed typographical computer software. He then changed the name to "Zapf, Burns & Company" when one of founders died. Zapf then starting using his experience to develop a new typesetting program, "hz-program", in conjunction with URW Software and Type GmbH in Hamburg.During URW's financial problems and bankruptcy in the mid-1990s, Adobe Systems then bought out the hz patent(s), and later used some aspects of it in the concepts in their InDesign program.
Eventually, David Siegel and Zapf began work on the some software necessar for the making a typeface with a large number of glyph variations. Although Zapf was hestiant about it. Siegel wanted to use an example of Zapf's calligraphy for the basis of the font. Not too long after starting, Siegel abandoned the project due to personal problems and started a new life, working on bringing color to Macintosh computers, and left lithography behind.
Total, he created over 20 fonts, but Zapf is also famous for finishing the project without Siegel anyway, working with Linotype and created four alphabets for the typeface "Zapfino" released in 1998. Zapfino is a calligraphic typeface designed for Linotype. It is based on an alphabet Zapf originally penned in 1944 in his old journals. As a font, it makes extensive use of ligatures and character variation and is one of the most versatile calligraphic fonts ever. Apple has one of the six weights of Zapfino in Mac OS X, this is used to demonstrate its advanced typographic features. The font includes over 1,400 glyphs. Zapf had also completed the typeface AMS Euler with Donald Knuth and David Siegel of Stanford University for the American Mathematical Society, a typeface for mathematical composition including fraktur and Greek letters.
The fonts Palatino, Optima, Zapf Chancery, and Zapf Dingbats are now familiar designs around the world and are found on all personal computers. Optima, Zapf's personal favourite font, has basic roman slants, rounded bases, and oblique font that is widely imtiated everywhere. Optima is the typeface used on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall. It has also been used by Marks & Spencer, PLC. Another widly imitated popular font Zapf created is Palatino. It is perhaps one of the ten most used serif typefaces, showing influence of the Italian Renaissance letter forms which mirror the letters formed by a broadnib pen.
This artist dynamic nature of text encourages me and not i am curious to try and create a new font myself. Typography has never seemed like an art to me, but reading about his story changes my mind about it. I think that Zapf has been very successful and has had a huge impact in the world of graphic design and typography. Hermann Zapf is the one ot the top most acknowledged type designers and a master calligraphers living. His many faces, including Palatino, Melior, Optima, and Aldus, are used throughout the world. They are often standard types on most computers everywhere. Many of them were first created at a time when lead type was the standard.Currently, he is in digital technology. He has taught his knowledge in many universities and was invited to speak at many others. I would say that Zapf's work has achieved popular success both with professionals to residents on their home computers. Home computers have the type designs Palatino, Optima, ITC Zapf Chancery. Other fonts, such as Michelangelo, Zapf International, and Zapf Renaissance are used by some of the professional graphic designers.