Friday, June 12, 2015

Hermann Zapf, RIP

Bruce Weber:

Hermann Zapf, whose calling in life — “to create beautiful letters,” as one of his students put it — found expression in lush, steady-handed calligraphy and in subtly inventive typefaces that have brought words to readers on paper, on signposts, on monuments and on computer screens for more than half a century, died on Thursday at his home in Darmstadt, Germany. He was 96.


Working with these elements, Mr. Zapf evoked beauty as well as clarity, cleverness without hubris, invention without distraction. A master calligrapher who could reproduce a typeface by hand, he brought an admiration of the art of the pen to the art of the font. And conscious of history, he felt that type should both acknowledge tradition and reflect modernity.

Anna Quito (via John Gruber):

In his long and prolific career, Zapf worked on many fonts, but his personal favorite was the humanist sans serif typeface Optima, the lettering chosen for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall in Washington, DC.


Zapf was among the pioneers of computerized typography, experimenting with computer-aided typesetting from the 1960s. He led a seminal design program at the Rochester Institute of Technology where collaborated with computer scientists and became acquainted with IBM and Xerox. Zapf invented a typesetting program called Hz-program, which later informed the design of the desktop publishing software Adobe InDesign.

Adam Twardoch (via Hacker News):

But his contributions went way beyond that — Hermann Zapf served as typographic advisor to both Dr. Peter Karow (URW) and Professor Donald Knuth (TeX), the pioneers of computerized typography whose legacy we all benefit from today. Hermann had as much mastery in writing and drawing letters as he had in arranging them. The typographic arrangements that he devised are full of joy, beauty, balance and harmony — and deserve to be studied meticulously.


Palatino, Optima, and Melior were heavily used, I would say overused, in the late 1970s and early 1980s. A friend who went to Rochester Institute of Technology when Zapf was there (as a visiting professor, I think), said that in a lecture Zapf said that he had never intended Palatino to be used for body text, producing some gasps from the audience.

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Good to read these and learn he was more than just a dingbat. I used Palatino as my default 'document' font for a couple of years...

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