Proxima Nova (2005) is a clean, crisp, and modern typeface that continues to be a go-to font for me in my design work. I started wondering, just what was the story behind this font? Here is what I found:
Proxima Nova font is one of the latest incarnation of a typeface family Mark Simonson has been working on for over 30 years. The first sketches were made around 1981. At that time, he called it Zanzibar, mainly because he liked the word.
Zanzibar had much of the basic structure and appearance of Proxima Nova, especially in the lowercase. In 1991, Mark was art director of a magazine in which he was using Gill Sans. He liked it a lot, but wished there was something plainer and more geometric. Such a face did not seem to exist.
Taking this basic concept and the earlier ideas for Zanzibar, he began working on a new typeface, which he dubbed Visigothic. Many existing fonts influenced the look of Visigothic. Mark wanted something with the general proportions and stroke contrast of Helvetica or Akzidenz Grotesk, but with construction principles and details borrowed variously from Futura, Kabel, the aTF gothics and the U.S. Federal Highway signage typeface.
The result was a hybrid; a face combining modern, even-width proportions with a somewhat geometric appearance. It was released through FontHaus in 1994 as Proxima Sans, a family of six fonts—three weights with matching italics. The name Visigothic was dropped because of its similarity to the name of another recently released font, Visigoth, and because Mark felt it was just a bit too corny.
The name Proxima Sans was chosen to acknowledge that it was near other sans serifs in design and also because the letters in the name displayed some of the more identifiable characteristics of the design.