Hermann Zapf (1918 – 2015) German Typographer and Calligrapher

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Hermann Zapf (1918 – 2015) was born and educated in Nuremberg. Gudrun Zapf-von Hesse, a calligrapher and typeface designer, was his wife. Palatino, Optima, and Zapfino are some of the typefaces he developed.


He learned calligraphy privately from Edward Johnston and Rudolf Koch’s manuals before working at Paul Koch’s Haus zum Fursteneck type foundry in Frankfurt. He was brought to the Stempel Foundry in Frankfurt in the late 1930s and began his career in type design there.

Zapf Dingbats designed by Hermann Zapf
Zapf Dingbats designed by Hermann Zapf


In 1941, he created his first blackletter typeface, but the Second World War cut short his career. Roman typefaces were needed for re-stocking in the post-war context when German printers and founders were reconstructing factories damaged by bombing. Palatino (1949), based on classical Italian letterforms, is one of Zapf’s most well-known designs. Melior (1952), a newspaper face, and Optima (1958), a “serifless” roman, were among the renowned faces that followed. His type creations, including family variations and titling fonts, number in the hundreds and cover the evolution of technology over the last 50 years, from hot-metal to film to digital type design.


Dormer, P. (1991). The illustrated dictionary of twentieth century designers. Mallard Press.

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