Mark Simonson is a prolific graphic designer, illustrator, and typographer whose innate artistic talents date all the way back to his early childhood. While his college education and subsequent career initially focused on commercial art, he took an interest in type design during a college lettering course in the mid 1970s. “Back then, this meant doing the artwork in pen and ink on illustration board,” Mark said. “I had been into type and lettering since high school so I really took to it.”
The idea of becoming a type designer was an aspiration that simmered quietly in the back of his mind, although decades would pass before he made the bold career move to pursue typography full time. He considers himself to be a bit of a “late bloomer” in that regard, but if anything, Mark’s career proves that the very best things in life often require a great deal of time to fully emerge and what really matters is that they eventually do.
He has enjoyed an incredible amount of success during his career in typography, particularly with one of his most notable designs, Proxima Nova, a font that is (as of this writing) being used on more than 31,400 websites. Proxima Nova is a completely reworked version of Proxima Sans, a type design Mark released in 1994. Its core design is an amalgamation of geometric impression with humanistic proportions, a balance that is executed with absolute precision.
Mark’s latest release is Proxima Soft, a rounded, more playful version of its straight-laced sans serif older sibling, Proxima Nova. Proxima Soft is warm and welcoming, an approachable type design that offers clarity without severity. It’s naturally well suited for web content and mobile applications, yet it is also befitting of casual headlines, editorials, and contemporary advertising. The heavier weights are particularly excellent for early-reader children’s books, educational tools like flashcards, and board game cards.
One might think that the process of extracting a new type design from an existing font would be an easy task; however, that was certainly not the case with Proxima Soft. “The core of the design was already there. But it was more than just making all the stroke endings rounded,” Mark observed. Such alterations introduced a number of challenges with spacing and proportions, particularly in the heavier weights. Most of Mark’s work on Proxima Nova concentrated on solving those problems.
His efforts proved worthwhile when he saw how well the design actually functioned on the page as a typeface. “It really worked,” Mark said. “I thought it would, but I didn’t know for sure until then.”
Proxima Soft shares the same number of weights and styles as Proxima Nova, and is equally matched with its predecessor’s language accessibility and alternate characters. This is a powerhouse family of fonts; 48 variations offer eight weights that range from Thin to Black, each one available in three widths (base width, condensed, and extra condensed) with corresponding italics for every weight and width.
Proxima Soft’s multilingual support extends to Basic Latin, Western European, Euro, Catalan, Baltic, Turkish, Central European, Romanian, Vietnamese, Pan African Latin, Dutch, Afrikaans, Igbo Onwu, Basic Greek, and Basic Cyrillic for global accessibility. A host of additional features include case sensitive forms, standard ligatures, tabular figures, slashed zero, fractions, and stylistic alternates.
Mark Simonson currently offers 15 products through YouWorkForThem and we highly recommend that you visit his portfolio to check out the rest of his work. He hesitates to announce upcoming releases because, in his words, “It always takes longer than I think it will to get a new design finished.” Mark is currently working on an extended style for Proxima Nova, and now that Proxima Soft has been released, probably an extended style for it, as well. “I want to keep them in sync with each other in terms of character set and styles,” Mark said.
We’re certainly looking forward to seeing his future work. No matter how long it takes, it’ll be well worth the wait.