Saturday, July 21, 2007

Hermann Zapf - Part 2

Yesterday afternoon was crazy-busy, but now I have a few minutes to tell an unbelieveable story that I learned yesterday. Here we go!

You know how sometimes a day can be SO busy, and you'd rather just skip your class or meeting instead of taking time away from your "important work" to go? This happened to me yesterday. I was working on a few things that were due before I left work for the weekend -- I had two hours to get them done and it was not going well. I became even more frustrated when my calendar pinged me to tell me I had a meeting in 15 minutes. At 3PM on a Friday?! I begrudgingly grabbed my notebook and headed to the meeting, which was held in one of Hallmark's many gallery spaces.

My office is near this gallery, so I had already walked through the exhibit several times, but my manager had scheduled a tour of this exhibit for our team with one of the people in charge of this month's theme - typography. Now, as a designer myself, I was thinking, typography... yes, I am a designer, I know about typography...I sighed as I started to write a list of "to dos" for the rest of my day. A few minutes later, myself and one of my coworkers greeted our tour guide as he came in: Rick, a member of the Font Development Group at Hallmark.

Ok, focus... Get to Hermann Zapf, Erin!

Rick started by giving a brief history of typography at Hallmark: The Font Development Group started in the early 60s and at that time was called the Alphabet Design Group. Of course, back then, there were no G5 Macs and no Adobe CS3, so the group was working the old-school way. Rick went on to say that in the mid-sixties, Hermann Zapf became a consultant to the Alphabet Design Group at Hallmark ---- ERRRRRTTT! [insert record scratch here] ---- Hold up Rick, HERMANN ZAPF, the Hermann Zapf (the one I learned about in my History of Graphic Design class? the same Hermann Zapf that I wrote a paper about and designed a typographic book and poster series after?), was a consultant at Hallmark? You mean, he was here , in this building, hanging out and talking about type??

I was stunned. Rick went on to talk about how Mr. Zapf wrote a book specifically for Hallmark that has never been published (it is currently housed in Hallmark's Archive Collection), and also filmed a short instructional video for Hallmark that includes some of his personal tips & tricks and design philosophies. Rick himself is also a close friend to the Zapfs, Hermann and his wife Gudrun Zapf von Hesse. He has even been to their house in Germany and has been to Hermann's personal studio in his home (a small room just off of his personal typography library , hidden behind a door in the living room). Note: I'm sure my mouth was hanging open at this point.

I began to browse the gallery exhibit with new found energy and perspective. Browsing the beautiful hand-lettered prints and various handwriting style sheets that the font group was gradually turning into fonts for our proprietary collection (adding to our already 500+ fonts in the proprietary collection), I became humbled. First, I was humbled by the skill and creativity of our font group - knowing that I myself lacked the technique and the drive to do what they do. And second, I was humbled by my own attitude toward the meeting itself and how I had almost skipped it. I had learned so much in that 30-minute meeting: I learned about the innovative ideas and the huge strides happening in the typography group at Hallmark; I met and learned about Rick, a long-time Hallmarker who is humble, always learning, and incredibly talented; learned a little-known fact about Hermann Zapf and Hallmark...

And, probably the biggest thing I learned, is that you never know who you are going to meet and when and what you might learn from them. There is no way to tell how that person will inspire you, and what effect that will have on who you are now and who you will become. I returned to the pile of work in my office with new eyes and a fresh mind -- And I finished it all in time to head home for the weekend.

[Right: typographic designs/fonts created by Hermann Zapf. I took the photos shown in this post during my visit to the Bodoni Museum in Parma, Italy in 2003. The trip to the museum was part of the Iowa State University College of Design semester abroad program to Rome, Italy]

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