I was surprised last week by Ellen’s knowing question – what font will you use? And I said Gill Sans.
Why I love this font
It is English, it is retro, it is elegant and balanced; it makes life more beautiful! While Gill Sans is a very common font, ubiquitous even, it always looks fresh and modern to my eye.
I am not nationalistic, far from it, but I am always interested in English and British artists, designers, styles, products and traditions. The Gill Sans font was developed by one of the greatest British artists of the 20th Century – Eric Gill – specifically for posters, advertising and public information purposes. Creating a systematic approach to design and branding (as it is now known) developed in the 1930s, and the Gill Sans “alphabet” was widely adopted (although it evolved) by the Underground, the Railways, the BBC and Penguin books.
There are several nice German and Swiss modern, rather more geometric styles that are similar, but I prefer Gill Sans.
This font was developed in the late 1920s/1930s, originally as an alphabet of capital letters, based on the finely honed Roman style. (At my secondary school we had the gravestone of a Roman soldier, Lucius Baebius Crescens from Augusta Vindelicorum (modern-day Augsburg), soldier of the Sixth Legion. I enjoyed looking at the amazing typography, carved our of the stone in a regulation style, and we used to seek his help for exam success).
- Elegant and balanced
The design is artistic rather than technological or engineered. It flows and has flourishes. Behold the “Q”.
I love this font because it has an openness and lightness to it. As it was developed to include lower case letters it started to be used for body text and soon won many fans.
What is “Sans”?
Fonts are not something many of us think about – the design of the typefaces we use at work, on our blogs, and the ones we read in newspapers, books and reports. I usually stick with Ariel at work, preferring a sans-serif typeface in general. Although I have used Times New Roman in the past. The twidly bits (circled) are the serifs which are said to make them easier to read. Now I am learning InDesign I am learning lots more about the appearance of text and it is very interesting.
What is Gill?
Come in Eric Gill (pronounced like a fish gill).
Eric Gill was a marvellous sculptor, illustrator and designer, and you can see his work, free of charge, all over London. The first image, below, is just one of several sculptures which adorn the headquarters of Transport for London. I have had the privilege of spending time inside this amazing Grade 1 listed Art Deco building known as “London’s first sky scraper”, 55 Broadway (St James tube station) many times. My son Gus worked there until recently; we are developing some TfL land for social housing; and I mentor a senior officer in the British Transport police who is also based here. The offices and lifts are amazing, but like many beautiful old offices it is not really fit for the future. It seems likely that it will be sold at some point. Gill also worked on the BBC building, and you will be greeted by his “Mankind” if you walk into the sculpture gallery at the V&A. Nick loves this sculpture (and says it looks like me, ha ha!).
Eric was amazingly talented and I have a great fondness for his work. He converted to Catholicism, but he was a pedophile. I mention this as there is a tendency sometimes to judge the artists rather than the art, and there are some who call for these works of art to be broken and removed. I am appalled by the desecration of art but some would boycott or ban anything that offends them. Not me. I intend to use his gorgeous font. Let’s have a look at it.
In my InDesign course I have been using this font and learning how to make a “drop cap”. It looks really nice, doesn’t it? Not for my book specifically but just to learn.
Here is a nice blog post if you would like to know more.