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A Peek into the Man behind the Zapf Chancery Typestyle
By Spencer Duncan and Cynthia Wiggins
Hermann Zapf1918-2015 Printer, Renowned Calligrapher, Typographer, Book Designer, Artistic Director, Professor, Legend
Born in Nuremberg, Germany in 1918 during turbulent times at the end of WWI.
Began his life long career in 1934 as an apprentice in lithography at the Karl Ulrich and Company printing firm when he was 16 years old.
Made maps while he served in WWII
Designed his first typeface when he was 20 years old with the count over 200 throughout his lifetime, with his most notable being Palatino (1948), Optima (1952) and Zapf Chancery (1979).
Versatile and Passionate
Hermann Zapf had an openness and lifelong interest in innovation, progress, value, culture, communication and design. He was very versatile and had such a passion for his work. He helped to create history through several different eras while experiencing new advances in technology.
Within his numerous typeface designs include text scripts in Latin, Greek, Cyrillic, Arabic, Pan-Nigerian, Sequoia and Cherokee.
He was well respected by fellow designers, peers and the many students that he taught over the years who were inspired by his work.
Married to calligrapher and typeface designer, Gudrun Zapf Von Hess.
About Alphabets: Some Marginal Notes on Type Design
One of the books designed by Hermann Zapf that helped to educate others about the skills of creating alphabets.
Take note of the creativity in the “A to Z” design on the title page.
Hermann Zapf was very intrigued by calligraphy and elegant script typestyles. Some of his earlier “hand-writing” style fonts were the Italic Miniscule and Zapfino.
The name of the typestyle was inspired by the Renaissance Era’s “Court of Chancery” in England
Zapf Chancery was named after a typeface used in Anglo-Saxon lands during the Renaissance as well as inspired by such scripts.
In Medieval Government, when the King wished to issue legal binding orders, it was the clerks of Chancery that wrote them.
With digital technology advancements, these types of beautiful masterpieces were destined to be created on the computer for mass production and affordability.
Designed Zapf Chancery in 1979 while working at the International Typeface Cooperation (ITC) with the President of ITC Aaron Burns, his “Partner in Typographic Crime” as he labeled him. This font makes it possible to give printed items an individual character. The handwriting of the designer can be seen in the forms of this elegant typestyle. When properly used, the swash-less Roman versions are elegant and legible while the italics are fitting when a more decorative appearance is desired..
In the 70’s, Zapf got involved with a new foundry called the International Typeface Corporation (ITC) that had sprung up during the new digital age. He wanted to offer some non-traditional typefaces.
Elegant Events and Formal Affairs
Script type fonts add an elegant flair to formal invitations, certificates, etching, menus, etc. Inspired by the new technology, Zapf took his calligraphy to the digital world which would allow for this art to be available to others…and this is when Zapf Chancery was born.
Unfortunately though, it didn’t go quite as expected…
Zapf Chancery became standard on every computer, which meant that it was available for anyone to misuse and overuse it. Because of this, it became the target of designer inside jokes (including one that made it in the movie, “The Office” which the average person didn’t get). As commented in a quirky opinionated website, FightBadDesign.org, the writer opened up her article, “Simply put, Zapf Chancery is the font that never should have been born.” Fortunately, there were comments to the article that defended the typestyle and Hermann Zapf, advising that just because it is frequently used incorrectly (all CAPS, as body copy, etc.) doesn’t make it a bad design. Surely Hermann Zapf himself cringed at some of the ways it was being butchered at the hands of the artistically unqualified.
All Around Artist
Zapf has designed many typefaces and has incorporated a few of his favorites into this creative art. This artwork not only reflects his talents in typography but it includes some of the key points in his career.
A Fine Line between Art and Typestyles
Zapf’s Artwork on Postage Stamps
Zapf created some of the series of prosperity stamps for the post war federal republic in Germany. The series were out from 1949 to 1953.
The Zapf Chancery typestyle has been seen by just about everyone who uses a personal computer. Although there are many variations and styles, one of the most common that you would see today is on a Macintosh. It is the Apple’s system font for Mac, “Apple Chancery.” It was actually hand chosen by Steve Jobs himself to be a part of Apple and was the only calligraphy-inspired typeface that he selected. It still comes pre-loaded on everything from Microsoft Word and OS X to Adobe Reader.
Inventor, Co-Founder of Apple Computers, Inc.
ITC Zapf Chancery and ITC Zapf Dingbats Two of Zapf’s Typestyles that Hold a Major Place in the History of Digital Typography
This is the complete ITC Zapf Chancery Family. This is a classic style is used for formal invitations, certificates, menus of fine restaurants, etching on glass, etc. It continues
to have reference today.
Zapf Dingbats were the original of it’s kind. There were around 1000 of these images that were used for bullets, check marks and designs. They were the Emoji’s of yesteryear.
Other Fonts Designed by Hermann Zapf
Zapf also designed all these fonts as well. He designed over 200 fonts throughout his lifetime.
Aldus® (1954), Aldus Nova (2005), Aurelia™ (1983), Comenius® Antiqua BQ (1976), Edison™ (1978), Kompakt™ (1954), Marconi®(1976), Medici® Script (1971), Melior® (1952), Noris Script® (1976), Optima® (1958), Optima nova (2002), Orion™ (1974), Palatino™®(1950), Palatino nova (2005), Palatino™ Sans (2006), Saphir™ (1953), Sistina® (1950), Vario™ (1982), Venture™ (1969), Virtuosa® Classic(2009), Linotype Zapf Essentials™ (2002), Zapfino® (1998), Zapfino Extra (2003), ITC Zapf Chancery® (1979) ITC Zapf International® (1976), ITC Zapf Book® (1976), Zapf Renaissance Antiqua™ (1984–1987), ITC Zapf Dingbats® (1978).
Famous Memorials that some of Zapf’s Work is Preserved On
Hermann Zapf’s typestyles were used in the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, DC, as well as the 9-11 Monument in New York City.
In 1933 he had to leave school due to political reasons. His original ambition was to become an electrical engineer but because of the turbulent times, he had to go a different route.
Imagine how different our world may have been if he hadn’t become a type designer.
It was definitely his calling….
Thank you for your creative contributions to our society, Mr. Zapf.
https://www.fontshop.com/content/hermann-zapf-1918-2015t made it in the movie, “The Office” which the average person didn’t get). As commented in a quirky opinionated website, FightBadDesign.org, the writer opened up her article, “Simply put, Zapf Chancery is the font that never should have been born.” Fortunately, there were comments to the article that defended the typestyle and Hermann Zapf, advising that just because it is frequently used incorrectly (all CAPS, as body copy, etc.) doesn’t make it a bad design. Surely Hermann Zapf himself cringed at some of the ways it was being butchered a