Early in his career, he worked as a typographer for various companies before setting up his own design studio in Frankfurt in 1954. He then moved to Cologne in 1963, where he continued to work as a freelance designer.

Zapf was known for his work in typeface design, notably for the Optima and Palatino fonts. He also designed logos for brands such as the airline Lufthansa, the insurance company Allianz and the German television channel ZDF.

In 1983, Zapf was appointed professor of type design at the Düsseldorf Academy of Fine Arts, where he taught until 1992. He has received numerous awards for his work, including the Royal Society of Arts Gold Medal in 1985 and the German Design Prize in 2007.

Otto Zapf has left a lasting mark on the world of typography and graphic design, and his work continues to be used and appreciated today.

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