The Lifestory of Hermann Zapf

In the sixties the radical move from the Gutenberg principle towards typesetting production began. It started with phototypesetting and then went digital when Dr. Rudolf Hell invented the Digiset photocomposition machine in 1964.

I have witnessed and participated in all the stages of type production. From hot metal composition in the fifties, to phototypesetting, and through to today’s digital methods. It’s been an exciting time with all the radical changes that the printing industry has seen.

Since the early 1960s, I have been working on the use of typography in computer programs. When you are a book designer, you are always looking for ways of simplifying production. In particular you need precise typesetting details, for which I was well known among the publishers. But there was also room for improvement in the technical process. At first my ideas about computer-aided typesetting were not taken seriously in Germany and were even rejected at the Technical University in Darmstadt, where I lectured in typography from 1972 to 1981. The director of a major company - which is no longer in existence - thought that it was unrealistic to apply modular structures to typesetting with the aid of a computer. "That Zapf is crazy", he said, as I later discovered, and I should stay with alphabets (see Fig. 1).

Of course nobody could have predicted that computerized typography would be the order of the day a few years later. These days computers are run-of-the-mill. Even children of pre-school age are playing with them.

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