Why are designers scared of Zapfino?

OEdada's picture


I recently got in to a heated discussion with a designer friend of mine, who believes "Zapfino" can never be used in graphic design or art to produce "amazing" work.

I personally think typefaces are like tools, each with a spectrum of uses or applicable scenarios. Some typefaces have a wide spectrum of uses while some have a much narrower window. I think to suggest that a typeface can never be used to produce beautiful work is underestimating human creativity and the infinity of creative possibilities.

I have tried to find examples of Zapfino used amazingly but have not managed the knock-out punch. I would greatly appreciate help in locating these.

Plus what do you guys think about this debate in general.
Its my first time here so be nice. Thank you.

Birdseeding's picture

My guess is that most designers would shirk from using it not because the typeface itself is bad – but because it's a common typeface found on consumer computers, and thus is used in endless amateur publications. Combined with its distinctive looks, this has the unfortunate and rather unfair effect of making it associated with amateurism; all typeface "meanings" are, of course, socially contructed, and this would play into that.

Zapfino is certainly not the only good typeface that's underused for this reason.

quadibloc's picture

I went to Identifont to have a look at Zapfino.

It doesn't seem to have been as popular as Times Roman or Papyrus, or even Palatino and Optima. But I did find it scary.

Both Zapfino and the completely different Zapfino Two are script faces. While I think one could make good use of them, say, on an album cover, and it certainly is narrow to think that script faces are only good for wedding invitations, their narrower domain of applicability reduces their opportunities to be used well.

Using a face for a wildly inappropriate purpose, after all, is using it badly. Being popular hasn't stopped Goudy Old Style from being used well on occasion.

hrant's picture

I'm not sure this is wise :-) but looking at your profile I can't help but mention that there's actually an Arabic version of Zapfino in the works... :->


tmac's picture

I don't use it much, but I think Zapfino is under-rated. So many alternate glyphs! It's commonly used by people with MS Word, but if you start using the alternates it can take on a different form.

(I'd post an example image, but it's too hard.)

Nick Shinn's picture

Zapfino is a tour de force of traditional, academically correct calligraphy.
That’s not the vibe people prefer in a flourishy script today.

quadibloc's picture

OK, I now see what the obvious (and thus heavily clichéd) use for Zapfino Two is. A record album, yes - but one of classical compositions by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

Bert Vanderveen's picture

I have used it a few times for very specific uses, eg my brothers wedding invitation, and that was when it had just been published. It HAS influenced my own style of writing and lettering because it is very fluent and still playful.

johnbutler's picture

I much prefer the original source material for Zapfino, which Zapf drew *very* small. Zapfino is gorgeous in long lines at small sizes. It turns into something else when it’s just one word or a title or a heading.

typerror's picture

As in the example above people tend to "overdo" with Zapfino. In the hands of Herr Zapf "flourishes and larger than life characters" were used with discretion to give sparkle or to "fill" a needy space.

When he conceived this font the technology was not available to see its full potential through.

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