Type Network is thrilled to announce that Mark Simonson has joined us as a foundry partner. Based in Saint Paul, Minnesota, Simonson is known for his unique brand of contemporary classic type design—undeniably modern, full-featured OpenType faces that are firmly rooted in tradition.
Simonson stands out as a typeface designer because he draws on three decades of experience as a graphic designer, art director, and letterer. Using type extensively before becoming a type designer gives him singular insight into what exactly people expect from their fonts—how typefaces are supposed to perform and what they should be capable of. And instead of second-guessing the market, Simonson simply designs typefaces he would like to use.
Having practiced professional lettering himself, Simonson knows how to convey this craft into the realm of typeface design and typography. He translates a hand-drawn geometric sans on a vintage Italian Art Deco poster, the hand-lettered titles from the Fleischer Brothers’ Superman cartoon series, or a flowing 1940s brush-script style into digital typefaces that apply rich OpenType features to mimic actual hand-lettering. Instead of slavishly copying existing models, he distills their essence. He then enhances and expands those alphabets, turning them into performant fonts with extensive character sets containing all the features required for contemporary typography. And Simonson doesn’t shy away from inventing his own cryptozoological wonders, such as the unconnected upright script Coquette, a charming blend of French scripts and 1930s-era geometric sans serifs.
Simonson also has a knack for bringing out the best in vintage type designs and transforming them into OpenType powerhouses. Trawling through type catalogs or digging through his past experiences, he sometimes comes upon a classic typeface with untapped possibilities. After identifying what makes it tick, Simonson carefully reconstructs the typeface while respecting its historical roots, helping it reach its full potential and then taking it to the next level. Bookmania, for example, takes its inspiration from ATF Bookman (based on Alexander Phemister’s original 1858 design), and critically engages with Ed Benguiat’s 1975 revival for the International Typeface Corporation. The resulting family is a Bookman of unprecedented breadth—five weights with matching italics featuring more swashes, alternates, and ligatures than any preceding version, and including all the features one would expect in a modern font family.
Proxima Nova, Simonson’s most popular type family, is a geometric sans serif with grotesque proportions. Originally released as Proxima Sans in three weights with italics in 1994, it was reissued in 2005 as a full-featured family of eight weights with matching italics, each in regular, condensed, and extra condensed widths. Proxima Nova has become one of the most widely used webfonts in the world, one designers turn to time and again whenever they need a robust, readable sans.
Simonson’s new partnership with Type Network marks the premier of Proxima Nova’s sibling, Proxima Soft. This rounded version began life as a quickly executed custom project, later released as a small retail family dubbed Proxima Nova Soft. Simonson recently revisited the design and significantly expanded the original concept. The new Proxima Soft family reflects the time and effort put into it; its forty-eight styles correspond with those in Proxima Nova. The shortened moniker neatly distinguishes Proxima Soft from the four early styles (and also prevents backward-incompatible changes from disrupting existing documents).
A passion for type and a dedication to quality and craft infuse Simonson’s diverse body of work—but his character shines above everything else. His warmth, quiet intelligence, and attitude make him an ideal partner.
“Mark is not only a fantastic type designer but is also a wonderful person,” says Type Network general manager Paley Dreier. “That’s why we’re so happy to have him join our family.”
We hope that you’re as pleased as we are about Mark Simonson becoming part of Type Network. In the coming months, we’ll take a look at more of his typefaces, and he’ll share stories about his life in type and graphic design. Let us know if you’ve used any of Simonson’s fonts in your projects—drop a line to firstname.lastname@example.org for a chance to be featured in a future story about type in use.