The Optima™ font family, a humanist sans serif typeface, was designed by famed designer Hermann Zapf during his tenure at the D. Stempel AG foundry between 1952 and 1955. The Optima Nova™ font family was a redesign done nearly 50 years after the original by Zapf and famed designer Akira Kobayashi.
Reminiscent of the Roman monumental capitals so admired by its designer, Hermann Zapf, the Optima font family was a unique sans serif that has been much imitated and revived in the years since its creation.
After a tumultuous early life in Germany during the war and military work as a cartographer, Zapf eventually found his way to the Stempel Foundry where he was made Art Director. During this time he created his two most famous typefaces: the Palatino™ font family in collaboration with August Rosenberger and Zapf’s personal favorite, Optima.
Optima is distinct amongst sans for its slight, glyphic serifs. Given this blend of sans and serif, along with its carved face, Optima has usually worked best in logo and etch work. In the early 2000s, Zapf decided to revisit Optima and expand the family to make it more flexible and wide-ranging. The resulting Optima Nova font family, created by Zapf himself in conjunction with Linotype type director Kobayashi, included more weights (light, demi, and heavy) and expanded Glyph sets to include Adobe CE and Latin Extended characters. The italics were also completely overhauled to include italic details instead of relying on a tilted roman.
Other variants and expansions on the family have appeared since the 50s, including Matthew Carter’s Optima Greek® font family and Optima Classified® font family.
Optima was most famously used in recent decades as the typeface for the carved names in the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C., as well as in the bronze parapets at the National September 11 Memorial & Museum. Prominent commercial brands like Estee Lauder, Aston Martin and Movado all use the typeface, as well, in their branding and advertisements.