The Zapfino® font family is an elegantly flowing, sumptuously designed humanist calligraphic font based on a WWII era notebook containing a character set penned by the celebrated German typographer, Hermann Zapf. The font contains a variety of glyphs and ligatures, making its resemblance to custom calligraphy very striking.
Hermann Zapf was born in Germany in November 1918, just as World War I was ending. Consequently his early life was very turbulent as the German citizens - many of whom had been anti-war - were forced to live through famine and extreme economic oppression before being flung into the Third Reich and the ensuing WWII mayhem in the nineteen-thirties. Tragically, a Spanish Flu pandemic took the lives of two of his siblings very early in Zapf’s toddlerhood.
Thus, his parents were very glad to send him to school in 1925 (since food would be provided), where he excelled in technical subjects. However, due to his father’s involvement with trade unions and the subsequent political atmosphere, Zapf found himself unable to attend college. Instead, he eventually took up a position with a company as an apprentice retoucher in 1934.
An exhibition in Nuremberg in 1935 piqued Zapf's interest in typography and the rest, as they say, is history.
Zapf created the Zapfino font after a young Stamford University graduate, David Siegel, approached him with the notion of making a typeface with multiple glyph variations. Though initially cautious, Zapf provided Siegel with a 1944 notebook containing a calligraphic alphabet he had penned. Though the project came to a standstill after Siegel decided upon a career change, Zapfino was later picked up by Linotype and the finished face was published in 1998, prompting a burst of critical acclaim.
Zapfino is a fantastic font for many different types of creative undertaking from advertising to wedding invitations. It is a popular choice because of its beauty – but that does not have to mean the results of its use have to look the same as other projects. The large number of glyphs and ligatures included with the font mean that Zapfino handles like a cipher, with an almost limitless number of combinations in any given sentence structure.
Utilizing Zapfino in a design does take some ingenuity. For example, unless Zapfino is the only type you will be using, combining such an exuberant face with another font can be a challenge. Examples of suitable typefaces to pair with Zapfino include the Futura® and Calibri™ families.