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Interview with Type Designer Mark Simonson

Interview with Type Designer Mark Simonson

Grant Friedman

March 23, 2009

Mark Simonson is a professional typographic designer who has designed many popular fonts such as Proxima Sans, Kinescope, and Coquette. Mark has been designing fonts since the late 1970s but spent much of his career as an art director and as a graphic designer.

Today, Mark works full-time as a freelance type designer. Read on to learn more about Mark and gain some insight into the life of a professional type designer.

GF: Mark, thank you so much for agreeing to this interview. Can you begin by telling us a little about yourself? Where are you from? How did you get your start as a type designer?

MS:I grew up in Wisconsin, but moved to the Minneapolis/St. Paul area right after high school and have been there ever since. When I was in college studying graphic design back in the mid-Seventies, I saw a copy of ITC’s U&lc magazine in the graphics lab one day.

It was like porn for type lovers. In it was a call for typeface design submissions. I was already kind of obsessed with type since high school, so the idea of creating typefaces really grabbed me and never let go.

Although I submitted a type design to ITC in the late Seventies (understandably rejected), I was really more of a wanna-be type designer for a long time. I have drawers full of sketches and drawings for typefaces going back to college, but it wasn’t until Fontographer was released on the Mac in 1986 that I started making actual typefaces, the first of which, Felt Tip Roman, Proxima Sans, and Kandal, were released through FontHaus starting in 1992.

GF: In your career you have been a graphic designer, an art director, as well as a freelance type designer. Can you tell us a little about how you went from working as a full-time graphic designer to a full-time freelance type designer? What happened along the way that made this change possible?

MS:I had started a family around the time my first fonts were released, and between that and a full-time job, it was becoming hard to find the time to make fonts. I was also rather shocked at how little money I was making from the fonts I had released, even though one of them was a minor hit. By the late nineties, I had all but given up on type design as a serious career, though I still dabbled in it.

In 2000, I quit my full time job to freelance as a print and web designer, but also started to get back into making fonts, selling them on the Web at places like I really didn’t expect it to go anywhere, but I thought it would be a nice way to supplement my freelance income.However, as I made and released more and more fonts, things started to snowball.

In 2005, I released Proxima Nova, a family of 42 fonts and my most ambitious effort to date. It was a successful release, and a year later I was making enough from selling fonts to drop my print and web design clients. I never thought it would happen, but my dream of becoming a full-time type designer finally came true.


Reddi Wip (Coquette)

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