Chapter 18: Proxima Nova

Posted on April 14, 2020 | Updated on May 26, 2022

In this chapter of “The Font Series,” we’ll look at Proxima Nova. The font you choose communicates tone, invokes a response from the user and changes the entire look of a design. Many fonts have been around for years or find their inspiration from older fonts created by hand ages ago. Understanding where a font came from and the ways people used it can help you know its best employment today.

Sorting through the hundreds of available fonts in any collection may not tell the whole story. We created this font series to help you figure out the purpose of different choices. Some of the selections are common, such as Times New Roman, while people use others less frequently. When we choose a face to feature, we carefully think through how popular it is. We also consider the reasons people use it and how it fits with the other fonts in our guide.

Proxima Nova is a font many have not heard of before but is quite popular among designers everywhere. Let’s study the specifics and learn more about this unique style and how you might use it.

The Origin of Proxima Nova

Proxima Nova released in 2005 from designer Mark Simonson. It combines fonts such as Futura and Akzidenz Grotesk for a modern look with geometrical elements. The style is primarily popular online. Simonson is an American font designer from St. Paul, Minnesota. He points to the lettering styles of the 1970s as inspiration, as his fonts often have an Art Deco look. Before he turned to font design, he worked as a graphic designer. In the early days, his vision for Proxima Nova started with an ad for “Star Wars the Radio Drama.” He tried some of the “Star Wars” fonts, such as ITC Avant Garde Gothic and News Gothic. However, they didn’t give him the appearance he wanted. Finally, he pulled out a font he’d been working on. It was a mix of News Gothic and Avant Garde, and he felt it was perfect for the design.

Mechanics of Proxima Nova

Proxima Nova comes in seven different font weights, including thin, light, regular, semibold, bold, extra-bold and black. The italics match each style, and you can choose from condensed or extra condensed widths. The form is a mix of classic sans serif faces — no feet at ends of letters — and geometric fonts. The letters are tall and wide, but you can narrow the width by condensing.

The lack of serifs gives the font a modern look. Yet geometric elements, such as broad lines at the top of letters A and B, are reminiscent of Art Deco. Designers have used the font for everything from print to online publications, and it adapts well in different situations. Even the thin style is bolder than counterparts in the same category, giving the font more weight and presence. The proportions and stroke mirror Helvetica, but the font also borrows from details found in designs such as Franklin Gothic. Plus, the face has even-width dimensions.

What Does the Font Imply?

Proxima Nova is often in subtitles. However, it also appears in titles when the user wants a serious tone that isn’t too stuffy. Because it initially appeared in a “Star Wars” design, it’s associated with futuristic and modern looks. The “Star Wars” brand is known for its tall and wide sans serif lettering that has a three-dimensional appearance. It also has a futuristic feel to it. The shapes of the letters are simple and clear. One of the reasons the font has become more popular over the years is the open appearance. It is friendly and works as well for a newspaper website as a wedding invitation. The font is acceptable for nearly any design you can imagine. Using Proxima Nova shows you understand the demands of modern technology. You’re willing to embrace something new and unique without going too far into the territory of weird. It’s an open and warm font that invites the user to come in and stay a bit.

Where It’s Commonly Used and Found

Font Reach shows Proxima Nova used on 31,470 websites and currently ranked at the number 25 choice. Popular sites, such as Buzzfeed and Flickr, use Proxima Nova. Typically, the font is a headline or in a blockquote, but it can also appear as body text occasionally. We feel it is a bit weighty for the body because of how expansive the lines are on mobile devices. Yes, the font is responsive, but it still has a wide weight, even when condensed.

The font doesn’t have any notable swirls or serifs. Therefore, it’s ideal for subheadings or text you want a bit larger but don’t necessarily want the primary focus on. That said, the style works as well in print as online. Note how it emerges on sites such as NBC News, Mashable and Wired. Proxima Nova pairs well with almost any other type of font. You can use a serif for your headline and Proxima Nova for secondary headings without throwing off the overall style.

How You Should Use Proxima Nova

The clean, minimalist look of Proxima Nova works well at different screen resolutions, appearing clear on a smartphone or desktop. It adapts very well to billboards or pamphlets, too. The designer claims the font works well when you want the text almost to disappear, not be the focus. Because it is sans serif, Proxima Nova pairs well with fonts such as Garamond, Lucida Grande, Georgia and Monotype.

If you’re looking for fonts similar to Proxima Nova, some alternatives include Gibson, Calibre, Niveau Grotesk, Museo Sans and Avenir. The height and width of these fonts are similar, and each has that distinctive sans serif combined with geometrics look. Where ever you use this font, you’ll find it adapts well to the situation. Start implementing Simonson’s creation in different designs and see how well it changes to meet your needs. You’ll likely fall in love with this face as much as we have.  

The Font Series Guide: Introduction
Chapter 1: 15 Google Fonts You Should Be Using
Chapter 2: Times New Roman
Chapter 3: Roboto
Chapter 4: Georgia
Chapter 5: Verdana
Chapter 6: Helvetica
Chapter 7: Comic Sans
Chapter 8: Didot
Chapter 9: Arial
Chapter 10: Tahoma
Chapter 11: Garamond
Chapter 12: Century Gothic
Chapter 13: Brody
Chapter 14: Bromello
Chapter 15: Savoy
Chapter 16: Athene
Chapter 17: Calibri
Chapter 18: Proxima Nova
Chapter 19: Anders
Chapter 20: Monthoers


About The Author

Eleanor Hecks is the Editor-in-Chief of Designerly Magazine, an online publication dedicated to providing in-depth content from the design and marketing industries. When she's not designing or writing code, you can find her re-reading the Harry Potter series, burning calories at a local Zumba class, or hanging out with her dogs, Bear and Lucy.

Related Posts