Before there were iPhones and emojis as we know them today, we added symbols and icons to our first computer-generated messages through the Zapf Dingbats font. This was one of the first ways that the average everyday user could put smiley faces, clocks or arrows in their text and it added a whole new dimension that distinguished the computer from the typewriter.

Zapf Dingbats was named after Hermann Zapf, a legendary type designer.  He is one of the many who left his mark on the world in ways that most don’t appreciate or recognize — one of those who invented something so ubiquitous that we don’t stop to think that someone had to create it.

In addition to Dingbats, Mr. Zapf designed the Palatino font and Optima, used as the default in Microsoft Word and for the etchings on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall.  How incredible would that be if you were a type designer to see your (!) work in such public places?

Mr. Zapf died last summer, but his work will continue to live on for decades. What contribution can you make to the world that may end up taking on a life of its own?

— beth triplett

Man of Letters by Lee Gardner in the Chronicle of Higher Education, June 26, 2015, p. A3

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