The Invisible Creativity You See Every Day

Typeface design: Decades ago, it was a little-known part of the printing industry. Then starting with the Apple Macintosh in 1984, we’re all now intimate with typefaces like Palatino, Verdano, and Times New Roman. We all know what serifs are; we know the difference between a typeface and a font.

On June 9, 2015, The New York Times reported that the most influential type designer has died: Hermann Zapf. He designed over 200 typefaces, including Palatino (used in the corporate logo of Abercrombie and Fitch), Optima (the letters used in the names on Maya Lin’s Vietnam memorial), Mellor, and Dingbats. He created typefaces in Latin, Cyrillic and Arabic. From the Times obituary:

Mr. Zapf’s genius lay in his solutions to the central problem that type designers, like industrial designers, face: expressing creativity while being circumscribed by practicality.

Art critic Roberta Smith wrote in The New York Times, “It doesn’t take long to realize that his career demonstrates the combination of natural (probably prodigious) talent, early achievement and continued growth and innovation that we demand of major artists.”

Creating with constraints, that’s true genius. I realize I need to pay more attention, as I go through every day, to the invisible creativity all around me.

 

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