Optima: Wikis


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Optima font sample.svg
Category Sans-serif
Designer(s) Hermann Zapf
Foundry Linotype
Variations Optima Nova

Optima is a humanist sans-serif typeface designed by Hermann Zapf between 1952-1955 for the D. Stempel AG foundry, Frankfurt, Germany.



Though classified as a sans-serif, Optima has a subtle swelling at the terminal producing a suggestion of a glyphic serif. Optima’s design follows humanist lines, but its italic variant is merely an oblique, essentially a sloped roman without characteristic italic letterforms such as a single storey a and rounded base of v and w. This is more typical of a realist sans-serif such as Helvetica or Univers. Also unconventional for the contemporary sans, Optima's capitals (like Palatino's) are directly derived from the classic Roman monumental capital model (one other well executed example is Meier's Syntax). It is clear from the reverence in Zapf's designs that he regards the Roman capitals as ideal forms, and his executions in type prove the thesis. Like Palatino, another Zapf design, Optima is both widely admired and much imitated. Optima and Palatino are trademarks of Linotype (a Monotype company).

In the Bitstream font collection, Zapf Humanist is provided as an Optima clone. Other Optima clones include Optane from the WSI Fonts collection, Opulent by Rubicon Computer Labs Inc., Ottawa from Corel, CG Omega and Eterna. Freely available implementations include MgOpen Cosmetica (Available with open source license) and URW Classico (available with URW Font package from Ghostscript).

Optima Greek (1973)

It is a Greek variant designed by Matthew Carter, based on sketches from Hermann Zapf.[1] Digital version has not been produced.

Optima Classified (1976)

It is a variant designed by Matthew Carter, based closely on Optima Medium. Digital version has not been produced.

Optima nova (2002)

Optima nova is a redesign of the original font family, designed by Hermann Zapf and Linotype GmbH type director Akira Kobayashi. The new family contains 7 font weights, which adds light, demi, heavy font weights, but removed extra black weight. Medium weight is readjusted to between medium and bold weights in the old family scale. Glyph sets are expanded to include Adobe CE and Latin Extended characters, with light to bold weight fonts supporting proportional lining figures, old style figures, small caps. Italic fonts include italic type features instead of just tilted romans. Even in roman fonts, letters such as Q, a, f are redesigned. The overall bounding boxes were widened in Optima nova.


Optima nova Condensed

It is a condensed variant is which consist of light to bold weights, but no italic fonts. Glyph set does not support proportional lining figures, old style figures, small caps.

Optima nova Titling

It is a titling capitals variant, which contains only capital letters, with restyled letterform. Glyph set is same as Optima nova Condensed, except it also includes extra ligatures.

In the tradition of hand lettering and lapidary inscription, the titling face shares similarities with the work of Zapf's friend Herb Lubalin especially the exuberant ligatures (for which Lubalin's ITC Lubalin Graph and ITC Avant Garde are notable). Further influence of A.M. Cassandre and Rudolf Koch, whose work greatly inspired the young Zapf, can also be seen in Optima.


Optima is the typeface used on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Optima, or a version of it known as Optimum, has been used by the British-based international retail chain Marks & Spencer in its corporate logo. Optima was used by the 2008 John McCain presidential campaign, possibly a reference to its use on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial[2]. In addition, the font is widely used by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. This typeface is also used by the Mexican Social Security Institute in its institutional images. Optima is also used official branding typeface at the University of New South Wales.


  • Margaret Re, Johanna Drucker, Matthew Carter, James Mosley. Typographically Speaking: The Art of Matthew Carter. Princeton Architectural Press: 2003. ISBN 1568984278, ISBN 978-1568984278.
  • Blackwell, Lewis. 20th Century Type. Yale University Press: 2004. ISBN 0-300-10073-6.
  • Fiedl, Frederich, Nicholas Ott and Bernard Stein. Typography: An Encyclopedic Survey of Type Design and Techniques Through History. Black Dog & Leventhal: 1998. ISBN 1-57912-023-7.
  • Jaspert, W. Pincus, W. Turner Berry and A.F. Johnson. The Encyclopedia of Type Faces. Blandford Press Lts.: 1953, 1983. ISBN 0-7137-1347-X.
  • Lawson, Alexander S., Anatomy of a Typeface. Godine: 1990. ISBN 978-0879233334.
  • Macmillan, Neil. An A–Z of Type Designers. Yale University Press: 2006. ISBN 0-300-11151-7.
  • Zapf, Hermann. Manuale Typographicum. The MIT Press: 19534, 1970. ISBN 0-262-24011-4.

External links


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