Hermann Zapf was born in Nuremberg on November 9, 1918. At ten years old, his father, active in the trade unions, was taken to Dachau when the National Socialist Party came into power and brought down the unions. Due to his father’s political record, Hermann was not able to go in to the electrical trade as he had wished. In 1934 Hermann started as an apprentice lithographic retoucher.

Inspired by seeing a Rudolf Koch calligraphy exhibition on 1935, Zapf began teaching himself calligraphy. Zapf’s new talent was noticed and through the D Stemple AG typefoundry in Frankfurt and in 1938 he designed his first typeface, a blackletter design called Gilgenart.

His love for calligraphy grew with time. Zapf went on to design several very now famous typefaces like Palatino and Optima, both of which are heavily influenced by his appreciation of calligraphy.

In 1948, Zapf designed a calligraphic script font – based on samples from his sketchbooks – call Virtuosa. He was disappointed with restrictions of designing the script font using metal plates. Zapf felt the kerning was wrong and the slant was too harsh. He intended for “exuberant flourishes” which the metal could not provide.

In 1993, with the help of another typographer, David Siegel (Tekton) and programmer Gino Lee, began digitizing Zapf’s original script concept, calling it Zapfino. Zapfino, completed in 1998, finally realized Zapf’s original concept for his calligraphic font. The Zapfino fontset includes One, Two, Three, Four, Ligatures and Ornaments, and is essentially a complete digital calligraphic kit.

Visual Study

I use Zapfino when a client is looking for an “elegant” wedding invitation design. It is a clean and whispy font that has plenty of variations to avoid repetition that comes from using digital script fonts. The only complaint that I have is that (for some clients) the weight of the font is not heavy enough (i.e., there is no ‘Zapfino Bold’). When this is an issue, I outline the font and offset it by one or two pixels (depending on the font size being used), which typically satisfies the client and doesn’t detract from the design of font.


Dodd, Robin. From Gutenberg to opentype: an illustrated history of type from the earliest letterforms to the latest digital fonts. Vancouver: Hartley & Marks, 2006. Print.

"Download Zapfino® font family -" Download fonts from classic to cool - N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Feb. 2012. .

"Linotype Zapfino™ - Desktop font « MyFonts." MyFonts: Webfonts & Desktop Fonts. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Feb. 2012. .

"Virtuosa - Font News." Download fonts from classic to cool - N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Feb. 2012. .

"Zapfino -" N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Feb. 2012. .

"Zapfino - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia." Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Feb. 2012. .

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