Saturday 8 November 2014


The Beloved has a brother who works as a designer and typographer a couple of hundred meters from the sea near Cape Town.  It's a hard life having Christmas dinner on the beach and designing brochures for wildlife parks.  In my restless gallopping over the plains of the blogosphere, whenever I come across an interesting reference to fonts or kerning I fire a link off to The Brother. Like all design mavens, he has a bit of thing about
which is clearly not a font that is suitable for all purposes: official forms, PhD theses etc.  But surely there are more evil things on which to vent spleen.  Actually, not everyone agrees that it should only be used for childrens' party invitations.  For years, our scientific research, and my extravagant champagne&cornflakes lifestyle, was funded by the Irish Department of Agriculture and we were obliged twice a year to justify the haemorrhage of tax-payers money by filling in a six-monthly progress report.  These reports were set in comic sans a font in which I could not bring myself to write science, so I carefully wrote the text in 12pt Times New Roman, which allowed us to fit more text in the delimited text boxes.

I've been in personal computers since the beginning - since 1981 anyway.  During that time, I've been on both sides of the Mac and Microsoft wars and spent about ten years working mostly within the minority operating system Unix/Linux. I've never really been a trend-setter: ahead of the curve probably, but with a mass of geeks and hackers well ahead of me.  This is largely because of inertia.  It takes me so much time and effort to achieve a level of mastery that allows progress, that it is really difficult to dump all that accumulated knowledge and embrace the next new thing.  In the early to mid-1990s, Macs were the thing and I bought into them and bought them - usually on someone else's nickel.  I've still got a working Mac LC475 in the shed although I stripped off all the useful files a long time ago. All the useful files were written in Palatino which was the default serif font in Mac-land.  With extensive use came familiarity and with familiarity came affection. I was reminded of this - it's more than a decade since I wrote anything in Palatino - because today is the birthday of Hermann Zapf who was born in the last days of WWI on 8th November 1918.  He invented Palatino and a bunch of other elegant and successful fonts; including Optima which features on the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington DC.  He was an interesting chap, who spent much of WWII in the cartography section of the Wehrmacht because he was useless as a soldier.  He loved letters and lettering and was an expert and thoughtful calligrapher.  In his youth he was also a bit of a cryptographer, writing to his brother in a variety of ciphers.  That gives me an excuse to write a short puzzle for Zapf-fans.  I'd love to write it in Zapf Dingbats, his font of glyphs, but I can't find a translator so I've used wingdings instead:
Hermann Zapf is no relation of George Zipf nor as tasty as Zopf. Foxed by the code? I've Marshalled a clue below the fold.

1 comment:

  1. The medium is the massage. I still get queasy thinking about those DAFM forms!