“What Michelangelo was to sculpture and Beethoven was to music, that’s what Hermann Zapf is to type design and calligraphy.” Jerry Kelly
In June 2015, quietly, unbeknownst to most of the world, a man who has touched billions of lives around the world died in Darmstadt, Germany. You’ve seen his work in books, magazines and newspapers. His creative output has found its way onto signs, billboards, monuments, television and computer screens for more than half a century. His name is Hermann Zapf, he was 93 years old and is considered the foremost type designer in the world.
Zapf created approximately 200 typefaces in numerous alphabets, including Latin, Cyrillic, Arabic and Cherokee, spanning the eras of metal typesetting, phototypesetting and digital typesetting. His typefaces are among the most utilized in the world. They include Palatino (bundled with Microsoft Word), Optima (used on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial) and Zapfino (shipped with every Macintosh computer). And, of course, his self-named Dingbats (★☑▼♦).
I met Mr. Zapf (figuratively) in 1972 as a first-year graphic design student at the University of Texas at Arlington. This was long before the proliferation of digitally designed fonts, so his typefaces were among the gold standard ... and still are. For years, Palatino was my “go-to” typeface for brochures and ads. I recently “re-used” Optima. It was like slipping on a familiar, comfortable pair of shoes. Like Michelangelo and Beethoven, Zapf’s work is timeless and will continue to be enjoyed and employed by generations to come.