Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Brought to you by the letter

Today's letter is brought to you by the letter: M.
Optima, Bold, lowercase m.

It's always easy for me to pick out Optima because although it's a sans-serif, it has a bit of shape to its form. You can sort of see how each leg of the 'm' is not a perfect rectangle, rather they have a slight curve to them from the top of the leg to the bottom (much like flare jeans.) Wikipedia calls it a "swelling at the terminal" which is really a great way to describe it, swelling. The swelling in Optima helps differentiate it from every other sans-serif. Does this uniqueness make for better readability? I don't know, but it does help increase its celebrity in the type world. You can't be famous is no one knows your name. (Note after reading Wiki article, this calligraphic touch to Optima does in fact help legibility!) And speaking of names, Optima also goes by Zapf Humanist because it was a humanist sans-serif created by Hermann Zapf. (You may know Zapf from Zapf Dingbats, he's a big player in the type game.)

I also enjoy Optima 'm's humps. While, I don't mind the slight curve/dip at the very top, starting point of the letter. Although, it becomes much more pronounced at the terminals, particularly in the Black weight (at which I find myself disliking the shape more and more.)

Courtesy of Wikipedia.com:

Design Foundry: D Stempel AG
Hermann Zapf

Date: 1952-1955
Humanist Sans-Serif

Optima’s 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). It is clear from the reverence in Zapf's designs that he regards the Roman capitals as ideal forms, and his executions in type prove the thesis. 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.

Humanist typefaces include Calibri, Johnston, Lucida Grande, Segoe UI, Gill Sans, Myriad, Frutiger, Trebuchet MS, Tahoma, Verdana and Optima, a.k.a. Zapf Humanist. These are the most calligraphic of the sans-serif typefaces, with some variation in line width and more legibility than other sans-serif fonts.


Sam Ricks said...

Also John McCain's campaign font, wasn't it? I wonder if there's some subtle reference to Vietnam that his ad campaign gurus hoped we would subconsciously pick up on.

h. van de mark said...

Good eye Sam! It most definitely was the typeface for McCain, undoubtedly to create some sort of visual tie to Vietnam.