Is Optima not the ultimate screen font?

tvz052's picture

I use Optima as the default for my web browser and email proportional fonts. I find it so readable and pleasant that I am surprised it is not ubiquitous as a screen font. Am I missing something?

James Scriven's picture

Optima people love it or hate it. The GD director at my school simply does not allow it. . . annoying and biased. . . frankly its starting to grow on me.

Jackie Frant's picture

I have one magazine named Auto Events - when we first were designing it we wanted a clean san serif face - Optima fit the bill. Easy to read and it allows more characters per line than Helvetica. Great point when you are trying to fit articles on a page.

It's been around a long time, and well, it's just well drawn. Only regret -- I hate the commas and quote marks! Wish they had given some thought to the design of them...

Si_Daniels's picture

>I use Optima as the default for my web browser and email proportional fonts.

Until the last few years rendering technologies and monitor resolutions wouldn't have done it justice. If you like Optima check out Gary Munch's new Candara for MS.

Bruce's picture

(I will preface this by saying that I happily use digital type 95% of the time, and am not one to say that letterpress composition is always better . . . it depends so much on the nature of the individual job, the typeface chosen, and who the comp and printer are. That said, I do feel lucky that I get to use metal in some of my work.)

I have a copy of Zapf's Manuale Typographicum (the later, 1968 edition published with MIT Press) which is set in many dozens of different types. The Optima pages in this book have a kind of noble and magical radiance that I have never experienced in offset reproductions of the type, whether from VIP or 202 or later digital typesetting. Maybe the impression accentuates or highlights the subtle swellings of the strokes in some way. Whatever it is, the sure gives that type presence.

Optima seems to garner more fierce pro and con statements than most designs. I can remember one of my favorite art directors in the 1980s talking about characteristics of the quintessential client from h*ll, and saying in tones of disgust: "Yeah, you know, the kind of person whose sister-in-law went to art school and she loves Optima!!"

Jackie Frant's picture

LOL Bruce,

Maybe that's why I use URW's Classico as Optima...

and gee, am I that sister-in-law?

Eric_West's picture

I used to love it, but lately, the only place I find it appropriate is signage applications. Shrug.

pattyfab's picture

It is a matter of personal taste. I couldn't stand looking at it all day.

Linda Cunningham's picture

All day, no. But I do use it and love reading it -- Jan White's Editing by Design is a great book to look at as well as having relevant content....

William Berkson's picture

To me Optima is a beautiful but not very adaptable font. In the right setting it looks beautiful and 'right'. But in the wrong setting it looks weak or out of place or precious. Also it often doesn't like the company of other types. --I don't own it so haven't tried it for the screen.

A 'prima donna' among fonts :)

pattyfab's picture

I remember when it was one of only 10 or so fonts that were digitized for the Mac back in the 80s (others: Copperplate Gothic, Palatino) and it reminds me of those dark days. I'd be happy never to see it again. Never a big fan to begin with.

And now I also shudder remembering how in Illustrator you had to go to "preview" mode to even see the changes you were making! And Quark wouldn't let you overlap boxes. Pagemaker, Freehand, yikes!!!

Linda Cunningham's picture

No, not Copperplate Gothic ever again! ;-0 (I feel like Edvard Munch's The Scream)

Dan Gayle's picture

I see a ton of Optima wannabes, and every time I just wonder, "Why don't I just use Optima instead?" And it wins out every time.

I just really hate the lower case f. Fugly.

Eric_West's picture

Dan,

what do you use it for? Could we see something? I could be persuaded, i just don't get it.

Dan Gayle's picture

I used it a lot in Real Estate Ads when I worked at a local newspaper publishing house. Half of the Real Estate ads in Seattle come from a company called Windermere, and that's what their logo uses. Easy decision. I liked it because it was classy, but still a sans and still readable.

You know, I love the typeface, and I see others like it, but I don't think I've ever used it personally except as an alternative to Times when doing a report for school or something.

dezcom's picture

Well, I guess I don't fit too well into this Optima love fest. I don't like it even a little bit. It does look better set letterpress though, the inkspread helps it look less wimpy. The early digital version that came out in the 80s that Patty spoke of just looks flat out anemic to me. I just never understood the fasination nor the overuse of it. I used to call it spayed Roman. It always seemed to have the worst of both the sans and the serif faces instead of the opposite which was the intention. Sorry Herman, I just can't see using that one.

ChrisL

PS: Linda made me look over at my bookshelf to see that my well aged copy of White's "Editing by Design" was still there in its full Optima glory :-)

muzzer's picture

Optima is a real beaut lettterpressed properly like in the Zapfs book. It just doesn't seem to work so well in this modern world!

Muzz

Dan Gayle's picture

At least it's not as bad as Times or Times New Roman. And that's all I's gots to say.

William Berkson's picture

>early digital version

Note that Optima Nova corrects the lightness, particularly in the lower case.

>Sorry Herman

Hermann is not offended unless you misspell his name :)

Interesting that you dislike Optima and Palatino, but like the new Palatino Sans. I'm the other way round.

Patty, you said you don't like any humanist sans, so I'm guessing that you won't like the new Palatino Sans either. How do feel about Palatino?

Linda Cunningham's picture

I'm with you, Bill: I set my thesis in Palatino with Optima heads. ;-)

dezcom's picture

I misspell my own name too :-)

The difference is that I don't like the Roman Palatino either and feel the sans does not look a bit like it--maybe that is why it looks better to me. With the sans, there was a commitment to making it work as a sans. Optima just doesn't fall enough either way to work for me. Beorcana does a much better job of it. It is more gutsy than Optima and looks like it should hold up well under text use.

I don't blame Zapf as much for the problems with Optima as I do the technology change. As noted by Muzz, it can work when set well in hot metal. When first translated to phototype, they must have just used the drawings uncorrected for photo and offset. I am sure Herman(n) worked from hot metal proofs to finalize his drawings and figured in inkspread in his design. When you take phototype (moreso with dirty lenses) you weaken the marginalness of Optima to begin with. Then you put it in front of a Robertson to shoot film and it degrades more. Next step, platemaking where someone gets heavyhanded with the rouge--add light ink on an offset press and bingo, the poor thing is dead. Pressman were trying to hold it from plugging and yet keep the color even. Ask an oldschool pressman running 6pt Optima on an old offset press how much fun it was (then ask him how printing a reverse was). Early digital type (and Optima was one of the first) didn't remedy much if any. I am glad the Nova version has moved it towards the better.

ChrisL

PS: I don't know why LinoType named the sans version Palatino at all unless they were looking at it purel;y as a marketing thing to cash in on the name recognition of the roman original. They should have just named it Zapf Sans or some such thing.

William Berkson's picture

>Beorcana does a much better job of it.

A suspect that you are right that Beorcana will work in a lot of situations where Optima doesn't. I look forward to seeing it used a lot.

But there is till a place for Optima, in my view. Beorcana is more gutsy, and will be better for many uses, but it's hard to beat the elegance of line and proportion in Optima.

pattyfab's picture

I'm generally with Chris, but in general I'm not a fan of the stressed sans.

crossgrove's picture

I Do Not Like the Stress-ed Sans
(To the meter of "Green Eggs and Ham")

Oh would you, could you use Beorcana?

Nuh-uh, I won't! I just don't wanna.

But could you see it on a sign?

It has no reason, and no rhyme.

I do not like the stress-ed Sans,
I do not like it on tin cans,
I do not like its thicks and thins
I do not like its b's and n's.
I do not like it on a flier,
I do not like it selling tires.

Would you have Tiepolo on a sheet?
Would you like Amira, looking sweet?
Would you have Rotis, on a package,
Would you use Amerigo, selling snackage?

I do not like the serifless roman,
I do not like it nuh-uh, no, man.
I hate it on annual reports
I hate it advertising sports.
It will not crackle, in a book,
It slows me down, it strains to look.

But what of Optima Display?
Would Albertus not somewhat sway?
Could Alinea work for telling news,
Or Lydian bring some zing to shoes?

I do not like sans with contrast,
I do not think their charm can last.
I won't read cookbooks set in these,
Or install them for any fees.
In hospitals they make me cringe,
Cosmetics packs give me a twinge.

They are a blight on our fair land.
I do not like the stress-ed sans!

dezcom's picture

BRAVO Carl!

ChrisL

dezcom's picture

Carl,
Pretty please with sugar on top, would you set your hysterical poem above in Beorcana as you see fit and post a pdf of it? That is a keeper.

ChrisL

pattyfab's picture

And how about our dear friend Dax?
I do not like it on a fax.
I do not like it to pay tax.
I do not like it to send pax.
I would not play it on my sax.
I would not paste it down with wax.

Dan Weaver's picture

Patty is kinky, Patty is kinky

pattyfab's picture

It's a reference to the waxer! Oops, was that not clear... sorry folks.

Was the UPS ref too subtle for ya too???

dezcom's picture

Now this thread is goin' someplace!
Please keep up your text of taste,
To end it now would be a waste,
This Daxin fashion Optima bashin'
Has got thinkin' things I shanta,
While seein' lines o' Carl's Beorcana.

ChrisL

Linda Cunningham's picture

I'm totally gob-smacked....

While I've been slaving over a pot of cooling wheat-paste adhesive, look what y'all have been doing?

;-)

(I'll take one of those posters too, Carl.)

dezcom's picture

Patty,
Some of us are old enough to remember the waxer when used to paste up type :-)

ChrisL

dezcom's picture

Send you pax is a scream Patty! Not too subtle (at least for the pun whacked among us).

ChrisL

Dan Weaver's picture

sorry to tease you Patty

crossgrove's picture

Dez,

You are the pun-whacked among us.

"Send you pax" - not even by UPS? ;)

William Berkson's picture

Fabulous, Carl :)

ebensorkin's picture

Thanks for the rhymes Carl!!!

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