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100: Desert Island Typefaces with Mark Simonson

Updated: Dec 14, 2023



I started this podcast exactly 28 months ago with a gut feeling, a creative urge and a curiosity about all things podcasting in an industry that is highly visual. I could not have predicted what this would morph into, as well as all of the incredible people I feel privileged to have spoken with, including designers, printers, typographers, artists, activists and so many passionate students.


Here’s a quick trip down memory lane. This is from Episode 001 about what this podcast meant to me in November 2019 (and I was so nervous recording it!)…


I feel very fortunate to say that this podcast has acted as my umbrella for 2+ years: both helping me weather the storms by remaining my creative go-to in challenging times, as well as housing my collection of multi-disciplinary interests and topics. I still get fireflies in my stomach (like butterflies, but as it relates to falling in love with creative practice) when planning and dreaming and crafting ideas for new episodes. It’s my creative fuel.


But this episode isn’t supposed to be a love letter to my podcast, it’s all about DESERT ISLAND TYPEFACES; you know, the one you would choose to use forever-more if stranded on a desert island with only a single font file to use (the horror!). In speaking with many guests over the last 99 episodes, I loved asking them about their desert island typeface choices and hearing all of the different answers and perspectives. Many were practical, text faces with good readability, while others were a little kooky and full of whimsy. Let’s revisit a few of my personal favourite answers to the question ‘if you could choose only one typeface to use for the rest of your life, what would it be and why?’.


Here’s Chris Rouleau, graphic designer, letterer and artist, in Episode 020…


And let’s hear from Nadine Chahine, one of the world’s foremost experts in Arabic typography, in Episode 044…


The incredible Ellen Lupton, writer, curator, educator and designer, in Episode 054…


And reaffirming his choice, here’s Chris Rouleau again in Episode 066…


Here’s Olivia Kane, graphic designer and podcaster, in Episode 069…


And how about Jonathan Valelly, writer, zinester and creative type around town, in Episode 076…


And finally, Paul Twa, graphic designer and illustrator, in Episode 095…


My sincerest thank you to each and every one of my guests who have generously gifted me with their time, energy and expertise over the last 99 episodes.



And this brings us to the very special second part of today’s episode that I can’t wait to share with you. I’ve said time and time again that my desert island typeface (that I use for just about everything) is Proxima Nova. From the mid-2010s onwards, Proxima Nova has become the most popular commercial (paid) font on the web. It now exists as a family of 48 fonts.


I’m so excited to introduce the creator, the designer, the mastermind behind Proxima Nova: Mark Simonson, here with us today!


"Mark Simonson is a lettering artist and independent type designer based in Saint Paul, Minnesota. He is best known as the creator of the typeface Proxima Nova and has over 30 type families in the retail market comprising more than 230 fonts.”


Mark began his career in the mid 1970’s as a graphic designer and art director, for magazines, product and collateral design. In the late 1990’s and early 2000’s he became a web designer.


Mark became interested in typography in college and he submitted a typeface to the ITC in the late 1970’s but was rejected. When Postscript fonts for Mac became a thing, Mark realized that maybe he didn’t have to go through a publisher and could release it himself. He published a few digital PS fonts in the early-to-mid 1990’s with slow uptake, but when people started selling fonts on the web in the early 2000’s, he jumped on it and things started snowballing. He began working on creating fonts full time around 2005.


Mark was so generous with his time and his knowledge. I’m excited for you to hear about his inspirations and his process for designing type. ( I was nervous chatting with such a legend and thank you Mark for making my type dreams come true!) At the end of our conversation, I couldn’t help but ask Mark about his choice for desert island typeface (eep!)... but let’s not get ahead of ourselves, Mark - what is Proxima Nova’s origin story?...



An image portraying large text in the centre with the words ‘100 Desert Island Typefaces with Mark Simonson’ set in the typeface, Proxima Nova with small grey ‘100’s’ in the background.

This image contains the question “If you could choose only one typeface to use for the rest of your life, what would you choose and why?” in Proxima Nova Light and Proxima Nova Bold.









Image Above: 1981 sketch of what would become Proxima Nova by Mark Simonson.

Image Above: 1981 sketch of what would become Proxima Nova by Mark Simonson.


Image Above: 1990 sketch of what would become Proxima Nova by Mark Simonson.

Image Above: 1990 sketch of what would become Proxima Nova by Mark Simonson.


Mark Simonson's typeface, Etna, in progress.



About Our Guest:

Mark Simonson, in his home office in Saint Paul, Minnesota.

Mark Simonson is a lettering artist and independent type designer based in Saint Paul, Minnesota. He is best known as the creator of the typeface Proxima Nova and has over 30 type families in the retail market comprising more than 230 fonts.





Music: Tune 100 by Crowander, licensed with permission from the Independent Music Licensing Collective - imlcollective.uk


Talk Paper Scissors Theme Music: Retro Quirky Upbeat Funk by Lewis Sound Production via Audio Jungle


Boat Origami Photo: Boat Origami Photo by Alex on Unsplash

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Wayne Johnson
Wayne Johnson
10. Dez. 2023

Awesome, I'm so glad I found these fonts. I recently found desert island images for my project. And together with the fonts they will be very cool together.

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