70 Years of Designing Type

70 Years of Designing Type! The Zapf Couple’s Long History with Design

Both born in 1918 in Germany, the Zapfs are one of the most productive working couples in design. Their long careers have involved nearly every method of making type, hand-crafted calligraphy, book binding, and graphic design. 2008 celebrates their 90th birthdays and we at Linotype.com know that our readers and customers would love the opportunity to wish him a happy birthday.

Send the Zapfs your birthday greeting here.

Hermann Zapf started his career as an apprentice retoucher in Nuremberg. While learning the trade he came into contact with the work of Rudolf Koch and quickly developed a strong interest in lettering. In his spare time he taught himself calligraphy using books by Rudolf Koch and Edward Johnston and with historic lettering samples from the city library. After his four years apprenticeship, he moved to Frankfurt to work for Paul Koch, the son of Rudolf Koch. It was there in Frankfurt were he soon formed relationships with Stempel and Linotype. By the age of 20 he had already designed his first typeface – a fractur named Gilgengart.

Original drawings of Gilgengart Fraktur
Original drawings of Gilgengart Fraktur for the punchcutter August Rosenberger, dated March 19, 1939. Also shown are variants for the capital D.

Gudrun Zapf von Hesse studied book binding as an apprentice under Prof. Otto Dorfner in Weimar. She too is a largely self-taught calligrapher and letterer thanks to the same Koch and Johnston books that Hermann also consulted. Only one term in 1941 she studied in Berlin with Johannes Bochland. Then from 1946–1955 she was a teacher and ran her own book binding business in Frankfurt. In 1951 she produced her first typeface &ldquoDiotima®” with the foundry Stempel.
That was during this time period where Hermann and Gudrun were married. As Hermann stated it: “Suspicious minds might believe that I was marrying away the competition, just as big companies do today. But there’s no truth in that. I think my wife demonstrated remarkable independence and artistic skills.”

Calligraphy, 1968
This calligraphy was made with a pointed brush and without any guidelines. It is a text by Carl Michael Bellmann, written on a paper napkin at the “Gylden Freden” restaurant in Stockholm, 1968.
Even though they work separately on most projects, together they have made an impressive collection of fonts. Gudrun has made type designs for Stempel, URW, Bitstream, Berthold, Hallmark, and of course Linotype. She is an inspiring teacher and in 1991 she was awarded the Frederick W. Goudy Award for typography. Hermann has created some of the world’s most popular typefaces including Palatino®, Optima®, and Zapfino®. He has won countless awards including the first Frederick W. Goudy Award and the Gutenberg Prize of the city of Mainz 1974. The university of Illinois made him an honory doctor of Fine Arts in 2003. From 1977 to 1987 he was teaching Typographic Computer Programs at the Rochester Institute of Technology.
Of the many popular designs of Gudrun and Hermann Zapf, Linotype has two special packages to help extend your Zapf font collection. First, there is the new Zapf Value Pack – featuring 5 great designs from the couple. Then there is also the extensive “Gudrun and Hermann Zapf Collection” featuring 143 fonts – including some exclusive gems not available anywhere else!

Pablo Picasso quote
Pablo Picasso quote. “Regarding people, there are more copies than originals”. Text from Hermann Zapf’s New Year’s card, 1994.
This is only the tip of the iceberg of Hermann and Gudrun’s story. You can read all about Hermann in his autobiography “Alphabet Stories” (2007).

Send the Zapfs your birthday greeting here.

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