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For other uses, see Optima (disambiguation).
Optima font sample.svg
Category Sans-serif
Classification Humanist
Designer(s) Hermann Zapf
Foundry Linotype
Variations Optima Nova

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


Though classified as a sans-serif, Optima has a subtle swelling at the terminals suggesting a glyphic serif. Optima’s design follows humanist lines; its italic is merely an oblique variant typical of realist sans-serif typefaces such as Helvetica and Univers. Also unconventional for a contemporary sans, Optima’s capitals (like those of Palatino, Hans Eduard Meier’s Syntax and Carol Twombly's Trajan) are directly derived from the classic Roman monumental capital model, reflecting a reverence for Roman capitals as an ideal form.

In the Bitstream font collection, Zapf Humanist 601 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). Linux Biolinum is a libre font inspired by it.

Optima Greek (1973)[edit]

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)[edit]

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

Optima nova (2002)[edit]

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[edit]

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[edit]

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 Pro Cyrillic (2010)[edit]

In April 2010, Linotype announced the release of Cyrillic version of the original Optima family, in OpenType Pro font formats. Released fonts include Optima Pro Cyrillic Roman, Oblique, Bold, Bold Oblique.[2]


The typeface Optima is used for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and was used by the 2008 John McCain presidential campaign.[3] Optima is also used as the official branding typeface for Estée Lauder Companies, the University of Calgary,[4] by Aston Martin. Optima is used iconically for Traveller, and Diaspora used it to pay homage to Traveller.[5]

Optima was used in the end credits of the 1973 horror movie The Exorcist as well as for the opening titles of its second sequel, The Exorcist III.

Optima was used in the official logo and most publications associated with Expo 67 in Montreal.

Optima was used for lettering on Premier League kits from July 1997 until May 2007, when it was replaced by a different typeface.[6]

Optima was used 1986–1996 for the logo of HFT Heribert's Fishing Tours (Germany and Canada).

Optima was used in the Taipei Metro.

Optima was used as the original fonts used on The Smiths original 7-inch single covers and their debut album.

Optima was used for the logo of American emo band Moss Icon, albeit slightly weathered.

Optima was used for the logo of Trans TV from December 2001 until December 2013.

Marks and Spencer used the font for its corporate logo[7][8][9] and as the default on all internal correspondence from 2000 but since 2007 it is gradually being phased out on all signage and packaging as part of another re-branding exercise.

Optima was chosen as the font to be used for the names of those who lost their lives in the September 11 attacks, carved into bronze parapets, at the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, which is named "Reflecting Absence".[10]

The Optima font is used in the logo of the Indian Premier League.


  • Margaret Re, Johanna Drucker, Matthew Carter, James Mosley. Typographically Speaking: The Art of Matthew Carter. Princeton Architectural Press: 2003. ISBN 1-56898-427-8, ISBN 978-1-56898-427-8.
  • 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 978-0-87923-333-4.
  • 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[edit]