Though classified as a
Zapf intended Optima to be a typeface that could serve for both body text and titling. To prove its versatility, Zapf set his entire book About Alphabets in the regular weight. Zapf retained an interest in the design, collaborating on variants and expansions into his eighties.
Interested in calligraphy and the history of Italian printing and lettering, Zapf first visited Italy in 1950. While in Florence, Zapf was particularly interested in the design of the lettering in tombstones of the cemetery of the
In his book About Alphabets, Zapf commented that his key aim in designing Optima's capitals, inspired by the Roman capital model, was the desire to avoid the monotony of all capital letters having a roughly square footprint, as he felt was true of some
Upon the suggestion of
The development of Optima took place over the period 1955-1958. Optima was first manufactured as a foundry version in 1958 by Stempel of Frankfurt, and by Mergenthaler in America shortly thereafter. It was released to the public at an exhibition in Düsseldorf in that same year. If it had been up to Zapf, Optima would have been named New Roman, but the marketing staff insisted that it be named Optima.
Zapf wrote later in his life of his preference for Optima over all of his other typefaces, but he also mentioned “a father should not have a favorite among his daughters.”