Hermann Zapf receives Germany’s highest honor

Posted on 26 May 2010 in:

Via TypoJournal’s Twitter feed, I just learned that Hessian Secretary of State Kramer has presented Professor Hermann Zapf with the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany, commonly referred to in German as the Bundesverdienstkreuz, or Federal Cross of Merit. This means that Prof. Zapf has received one of his nation’s highest civic recognitions. Below is my translation of the press release from the Hessian government. Hessen, or Hesse in English, is one of the 16 states that makes up the Federal Republic of Germany. Prof. Zapf resides in Darmstadt, a city in the southern portion of that state.

Outstanding contributions to the development of typefaces

Wiesbaden: For his achievements as a world renowned calligrapher and typographer, Prof. Hermann Zapf has been awarded with the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany (Cross of Merit, First Class). During the presentation of the medal at State Minister President’s villa, Hessian Secretary of State for the Ministry for Science and Art Gerd Kramer stated, “You have made exceptional contributions to the development of typefaces, and your trend-setting publications have been translated into 18 languages, in whole or in part.” He also recalled a specific commission that Prof. Zapf undertook as a calligrapher in 1960, when he wrote out the Preamble of the Charter of the United Nations in four languages for the Pierpont Morgan Library in New York.

Hermann Zapf was born in 1918 in Nuremberg. In 1956, he began working as a freelance graphic designer and calligrapher in Frankfurt. His clients included many publishers, for whom he designed books. From 1972 to 1981, he was a lecturer at the Technical University of Darmstadt, then called the Technische Hochschule. In 1976, he had received the world’s first chair of “Typographic Computer Programs” at the Rochester Institute of Technology in New York State. He has designed more than 200 fonts, and significantly influenced the development of typeface design. In 1999, he cofounded the nonprofit association “Graphic Workshop for Technology and Art, Offenbach am Main e.V.,” which he continues to support with great dedication and expert advice.

Almost all of Hermann Zapf’s digital typefaces are available via Linotype. I had the honor of translating a few texts for Prof. Zapf a few years ago. My favorite Prof. Zapf typefaces changes regularly; at the moment, it is probably URW Grotesk.