In 1950, Zapf made his first sketches for his “serifless roman” while visiting the Santa Croce church in Florence. He sketched letters from grave plates that had been cut about 1530, and as he had no other paper with him at the time, the sketches were done on two 1000 lire bank notes. These letters from the floor of the church inspired Optima, a typeface that is classically roman in proportion and character, but without serifs. The letterforms were designed in the proportions of the Golden Ratio.
In 1952, after careful legibility testing, the first drawings were finished. The type was cut by Stempel’s renowned punchcutter, August Rosenberger. Optima was also produced in matrices for the Linotype Machine. With the clear, simple elegance of its sans serif forms and the warmly human touches of its tapering stems, this family has proved popular around the world.
Optima is the typeface used for the text on the Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial in Washington, D.C.
In 2002, Hermann Zapf and Akira Kobayashi developed Optima nova, an expansion and redesign of the Optima family. The Linotype website has complete overviews of the original Optima type family, as well as the Optima nova fonts.
Optima and friends