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Release Year
Country of Origin
Sans Serif, Humanist Sans
Original Format
Metal (Foundry)
contrast, humanist, sans serif


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‚Äôs 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). Like Palatino, another Zapf design, Optima is both widely admired and much imitated. Optima and Palatino are trademarks of Linotype (a Monotype company).

Optima is the typeface used on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Optima, or a version of it known as Optimum, has been used by Marks & Spencer. Optima was used by the 2008 John McCain presidential campaign, possibly a reference to its use on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. This typeface is also used by the Mexican Social Security Institute in its institutional images. Optima is also used as the official branding typeface at the University of New South Wales.

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Last edited by type_ronin on May 10, 2012, 10:35am EST

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