I like Gill Sans!

sorenolsen's picture

I watched BBC World yesterday. It

objekt's picture

Interestingly enough, Johnston's Undergound Transport alphabet (from which Gill Sans was derived) doesn't sufer from that lack of distiguishing forms in those three characters. Between the 1, I, and l, only the I is rectangular.

flingford's picture

I have to agree. And then add that the real genius, IMO, is the italics--they're true italics, not obliques!

Mmm, that lowercase p is delicious,


hrant's picture

I think the English make great faces, but the contemporary Dutch school is leagues ahead.

As for Excoffon, I too would love to learn more about him and his work. He seemed to be a very interesting character, and had a surprisingly "scientific" approach to type design.


objekt's picture

Personally, I can't get over Gill's lc 'g', in Gill sans italic or roman. Yes I made a bit of a mental leap there, saying flatly that Gill Sans was derived from Johnston's Underground.

There's a small chapter on Excoffon in _Twentieth Century Type Designers_ by Sebastian Carter. You want more than that? I'd like to know more too. Cassandre and Excoffon; two wonderful French innovators of type design.

Miss Tiffany's picture

There wasn't much of a mental leap at all. I wasn't correcting you either. Gill isn't given much (enough?) credit. As well as there not being, that I've found, much information on the meetings that took place in between Johnston, Gill and Meynell*. I only came across the information when researching the development of Perpetua.

*I believe it was Meynell.

flingford's picture

Interesting rebuttal... you raise some good points. I have to say that Gill Sans, run in all caps is probably the worst instance of what you're talking about. (In other words, if you want that monumental feeling you can only get from all caps, perhaps you should choose a different face).

But I will forever regard the Gill Sans italics as pure genius.

A logotype I created once upon a time.


hrant's picture

Christian, don't forget: Gill was British...
But I personally love Gill Sans (almost as much as like Gill himself), since I don't value genericity.

As for the lightness in the "diagonal" of the lc "s", that's a feature any real text font has: because of optical -and often reproductive- aberrations in small sizes, an "s" with balanced color at large sizes will actually look too dark in small sizes. I found this out when looking at the wonderful Lexicon specimen book.


gilad's picture


beejay's picture

What was the thinking of the dot on the
lowercase i? (in the Ultrabold)
just curious if anyone knows.

Thomas Phinney's picture

I can't say what Gill was thinking, but I can point out some design issues for which that might seem like a reasonable solution.

When a font weight gets that heavy, it is helpful to increase the x-height, allowing heavier horizontal strokes in letters with several horizontals such as a and e.

However, once you get a really large x-height, if the i dot is to maintain an appropriate relative weight, it ends up above the descender height! Something has to give. One solution might be to make the linear part of the i much shorter than the x-height. Having tried this, I think at the extremes (Gill Ultra/Kayo), it looks as goofy as the miniaturized dot, because the main part of the i ends up so far below the x-height. So it becomes a question of which aspect of the design has to "give."

My $.02, anyway.


objekt's picture

That was quite a bump on the part of Gilad. :-)

Reading over my posts I'm pleasantly surprized--I use to know a thing or two about type way back when. :-)

timd's picture

There was a version of Gill Sans made for timetables (Monotype - I think) - uppercase and numerals only, monospaced bold and regular, the uppercase was used for footnotes and did not have "I" or "O" to avoid any confusion - I believe it was only available in 6 or 6.5pt to be used with ordinary Gill Sans for destinations etc. btw I didn't know any English type designers designed cars.

adriano's picture

I love the italic p... hate the regulat t, it's a DOG! I've never used Gil Sans... don't know why really.

ssray23's picture

I love Gill Sans.

Never seen a face before which catches so much of my attention.
Its true .... many like me, have a weakness for Gill ... you just cant ignore it.....

ssray23's picture

I love Gill Sans.

Never seen a face before which catches so much of my attention.
Its true .... many like me, have a weakness for Gill ... you just cant ignore it.....

Diederik Corvers's picture

It's a beautiful typeface but needs soooooooo much kerning to get it to look like it should (in the digital form these days anyway: I have a Monotye Recorder on Gill. It's from 1958 and the setting is gorgeous, even [or especially] in all caps).
But as Stephen Banham once said:"everytime I read Gill Sans I hear a BBC voice reading out load"
He has a point there.

keith's picture

Monotype's GillSansAlternateOne (1134) has a 1 that works.

negativespace's picture

I also like Gill Sans to an extent, and have found it so eye catching, its so identifiable. Only thing I have never been crazy on is the inconsistancies across the different weights, so I prefer to stick with the roman and italic. I am gonna have to aree with hrant also about the lc italic p :). If I am not mistaken, Gill only designed one weight? and the digital versions build off of his normal weight?

I added a wiki for Eric Gill last week, I am sure there is mucht hat could be added.

anonymous's picture

All of Gill's lowercase 'p' are delicious, although I tend to love his cap Florentine 'R', especially in Perpetua. I agree with Joe on the italics as well. It was the "humanizing" of the face that makes it so beautiful, in my humble opinion.

I'm not sure it has been 'proved' that Gill Sans derived from Johnston's face. I'm not arguing it didn't. Gill was in on the design of the Johnston face for the first three (or so) meetings. Johnston's face suffers from too much geometry in the wrong places and Gill avoided this with the humanist approach.

I'm not sure I entirely agree (or disagree) that the English design the best faces. What about the French? I've come to appreciate the beautiful eccentricities, and I mean that as a compliment, of the lettering styles of the earlier part of the 20th century. I never did appreciate those faces, such as Choc and Vendome, until listening to Gerard Unger's seminar on French design. By the way, does anyone know of where I might find more information on Roger Excoffon? Preferably in English, but my brother speaks French.

anonymous's picture

I have to admit I've always had a hard time with gill sans. I've always thought it a bit globular. The uc B, for example--what a wierd proportion. High five to Gill for doing a humanized sans serif, though. In some ways, the wacky inconsistencies, odd proportions, and irrational variations in line weight (what's with the diagonal of the lc s?) give it character and readability.


Just a suggestion

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