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  • Re: The Next Font Format?

    I would like to see a new spacing paradigm. The current one, in which each glyph is contained in a rectangle and each rectangle butts up against the next, is unnecessarily simplistic. To work around it, we have pair kerning, which only works within a single font.

    It seems to me that it would be simpler and more flexible if side bearings could have contours other than straight and vertical. They could be slanted, for instance, or follow the contour of the glyph in some useful way. Maybe we could even do without kerning tables.
  • Re: My first typeface (a student project), would like some advice

    My advice is to stop working on this and design a black weight. After you've done that come back to this and revised it based on what you've learned. You'll get more out of that than you will out of continuing to grind away at this. Because what you have now is a typical light first typeface that wears your influences on its sleeves. Moving on to a black weight will force you to work out the character of the design instead of working out the evenness of the design.
  • Re: Font piracy?!

    Think about it this way: phony download sites like these worn in your favor by making font piracy a negative experience.
  • Re: Question from a (sort of) newbie

    I start with the lowercase i, and then the l, and then the n, h and m. What I like about this is that it means I can concern myself with stem weight, terminal treatment, and vertical proportions before I need to start thinking about horizontal proportions and spacing, which only come into play when I get to the n. [I've watched workshop students spending ages struggling with the shape of the n when it is the first letter they try, and I think it is more encouraging to start them on the simplest letters, so that when they do get to the n at least the left side is mostly taken care of for them, and they have a sense of accomplishment in the i and l.]

    Similarly, I don't think starting with n and o together makes sense, and have watched students spend ages going back and forth between them adjusting their relative widths without any external points of reference. The upright letters establish the rhythm of spacing, so get these designed and spaced first. Then the width of the o looks after itself.

    The pseudo-word nihilim is a great test for spacing and horizontal proportion. If you can make this look good, you are en route for a nice typeface.

    After those five letters it doesn't much matter what comes next, but I tend to go to a e t because these are all high frequency letters and have a strong influence on the character of the design. Only then to I go to the rounds—o b d p q—, which by this point have plenty of shapes and rhythms to reference.
  • Re: Hermann Zapf (8 November 1918 – 4 June 2015)

    They will appear, soon enough. I sent Steve Heller a link to this thread, as he's a likely person to write it for the NY Times. The obits that appear quickly are those that were written in advance, awaiting only the details of death. (A curious way to know if you're important or not.) At the Times obituary bureau, all people are classified either as "Dead" or "Pre-Dead." Margalit Fox, the chief of obituaries there, wrote an interesting and amusing article about it not long ago:

    http://www.nytimes.com/times-insider/2014/08/29/obituaries-for-the-pre-dead/

    In a round of emails about Hermann's passing among some friends, Matthew Carter wrote something that I think really said it all:

    "I remember that I heard many years ago that somebody asked Warren Beatty who was the best actor. His reply went something like: 'Well I'll tell you this, when Marlon Brando goes everybody else moves up one.' Last Thursday, in the world of type design, everybody else moved up one."

    I think you'll be seeing this elsewhere, but remember that you read it here first.

  • Re: Hermann Zapf (8 November 1918 – 4 June 2015)

    It's hard to overstate how much we liked and admired Hermann Zapf. My term as president of Boston's Society of Printers, of which HZ had been a member since 1969, coincided with his 90th birthday. We celebrated the event in two ways: with a keepsake prepared by his longtime friend Carl Zahn, featuring a watercolor Hermann had made in 1944, when he was in a French prisoner-of-war hospital; and with the 2009 Dwiggins Lecture, an assessment of HZ's work by Matthew Carter and Jerry Kelly. (Carl Zahn, one of the first users and promoters of Zapf's types in the U.S., was scheduled to participate, but had to drop out on account of illness.)

    In my introduction, I tried to imagine Carl's point of view, that of a rising American book designer working in the 1950s, marveling over the freshness of Palatino, Optima, and Michelangelo when they first became available here:

    "While the early-20th century German antiquas often appeared foreign to Anglo-American eyes, with telltale artifacts of fraktur, Zapf got it right. To Americans, who would come to embrace Zapf warmly, the work represented the best German traits: knowledge, superb craftsmanship, and utility, but free of the nationalist tendencies that had, by then, fallen into bad repute. It must have made one think that the Marshall Plan was hard at work on the typographic front. And Zapf returned the affection, concentrating many of his efforts on America, becoming more than just a occasional visitor, teaching and working closely with mom-and-apple-pie outfits such as Hallmark Cards and Microsoft."

    As always, I got a very nice note from Hermann, who never missed a chance to voice his appreciation.

    "The Eternal Letter" contains what is very likely the last major essay published about Zapf's work during his lifetime. It's an assessment by Paul Shaw of his capital letters, mostly the typographic ones but also showing calligraphic examples. The essay concludes:

    "Today, Palatino and Optima are, at best, taken for granted and, at worst, unfairly looked down upon. Nevertheless, in the span of a decade—from 1948, the year that Palatino was designed, to 1958, the year that Optima made its debut—Hermann Zapf managed to reinvent the classical Roman capital for the 20th century, sidestepping the revivalism of Renaissance types that dominated the fine printing movement, and challenging, with Optima, the neo-grotesques championed by the adherents of Swiss typographic modernism. It was a singular achievement that still resonates more than a half century later."

    We don't know whether Hermann agreed or not, but gracious to the end, he sent Paul a note expressing his thanks. This time, it wasn't hand-written, but typed in Zapfino with a pen signature.

    The world looks a good bit better for his having been here. We shall miss him.





  • Re: Hermann Zapf (8 November 1918 – 4 June 2015)

    In the METAFONTbook (1986) there is a dedication by Dr. Knuth that says it all : ‘To Hermann Zapf: Whose strokes are the best.

    Hermann Zapf mastered all expects of type design and calligraphy, and he surely can be ranked among the absolute greatest in the history of type. His technical skills were unbelievable, but he was much more than a craftsman. Adam justly refers to his cooperation with Dr. Knuth and Dr. Karow. His early adopting of digital technology has always intrigued me. He worked for instance together with Dr. Knuth on the Euler types in Metafont and with Dr. Karow on the hz-engine, which was named after him. And you are all familiar with this paragraph-composition technology, because it was implemented by Adobe in InDesign in 1995.

    The picture below shows Peter Karow and Hermann Zapf at the Rochester Institute of Technology in 1989. Dr. Karow sent it to me for the booklet Digital Typography & Artificial Intelligence, which was published roughly two years ago by Adobe and DTL on occasion of the presentation of the Dr. Peter Karow Award to Dr. Knuth.


  • Re: Hermann Zapf (8 November 1918 – 4 June 2015)

    I was probably around 15 when I learned there was such as thing as Melior. And I couldn't get over it. I thought: "You mean…people can do that? Just do it?"

    For what little it's worth, I became a type designer because of Zapf. The first volume of his Manuale is what made type my religion. I bought my copy when I really didn't have money for that kind of thing, and I go back to it whenever I need to be reminded how beautiful a page can be.

    I never met or even corresponded with him, and I don't really have a right to feel personally bereft, but I do. Olev hashalom.
  • Re: Hermann Zapf (8 November 1918 – 4 June 2015)

    I remember in 1963, as a sophomore in design school at CMU, he came as a visiting lecturer in typography.  He walked up to the black board and picked up a piece of chalk, broke it is half and began drawing with the side edge as if it were a flat pen.  It took him three seconds to draw the most perfect double-bowled lowercase 'g' we had ever seen  He gave an inspired lecture on pen angle and how strokes differ from calligraphy to typography. He skillfully drew chalk drawings of glyphs in several of his faces as examples instead of showing slides. He was very welcoming of our questions and helpful in reply.  I treasure that memory still.
  • Hermann Zapf (8 November 1918 – 4 June 2015)

    The great calligraphy and type design master Hermann Zapf passed away yesterday, on 4 June 2015, at the age of 96. Hermann has been a defining force behind type design and typography in the 20th century.

    His breathtaking calligraphic skills have impressed me first when I saw them in books, but impressed me even more when, ten years ago, at the age of 86, he casually took out his pencil and inscribed a few books for me. His typeface designs were simply beautiful, perhaps most importantly Optima, which has created an unmatched class of its own and stood for decades as an penultimate expression of letterform elegance.

    But his contributions went way beyond that — Hermann Zapf served as typographic advisor to both Dr. Peter Karow (URW) and Professor Donald Knuth (TeX), the pioneers of computerized typography whose legacy we all benefit from today. Hermann had as much mastery in writing and drawing letters as he had in arranging them. The typographic arrangements that he devised are full of joy, beauty, balance and harmony — and deserve to be studied meticulously.

    I had the great pleasure to work with Hermann on Zapfino Extra. I’ll always remember his quick wit, his friendliness, his open mind — regardless of his age. Thank you, Gudrun and Hermann, for the encouragement that you have given me in the early years of my typographic journey, and for the immense work that you have done for the beauty of letterforms. The word “legend” should be used sparsely, but Hermann Zapf definitely deserves it.