Analyzing Gill Sans

Gill Sans is among one of the unique typefaces we have in typography. Gill Sans is a true hybrid, carrying characteristic of both serif and san serif fonts. A further exploration into the history, characteristic, pros and cons and personal opinions will allow for further understanding of this typeface and its uses in our society even in the present day.

Characteristics of Gill Sans are unique to the artist himself. Containing hard-sculpted forms, this is also a likely representation of Gill carrying his artistic sculpting knowledge and applying that basis to the creation of this typeface.

There is also a pronounced contrast in the strokes. This is seen primarily in the letter “r” and “a”. Gill Sans contains over 14 different variations with this typeface including Gill Sans Light, Light Italic, Regular, Italic Regular, Book, Book Italic, Bold, Heavy, and Ultra Bold are among the few that can be easily discussed.

The lighter of these fonts is seen to be the best example of Gill Sans. This is mainly due by the legibility factor of the stroke weights within the font. The Bolder the font becomes the more illegible the font is.

There is a complete juxtaposition of letterforms from Gill Sans Regular to Gill Sans Bold. There are stark contrasts between Gill Sans Regular and Gill Sans Italic. For instance, the counter on the lowercase letter “a” is completely different. Notice this is the letter “a” in Gill Sans Regular; this is an example of the letter “a” in Gill Sans Italic. Notice how there is no swooping stroke at the end of the letter “a” in Italic and how the counter is much more prominent. Also the lowercase letter “f” in Gill Sans Italic goes below the baseline of the font itself. The Italic “p” actually overlaps each other where the counter and stem meet. This could possibly be another reason why people felt it had a more human feel to it.

Among other examples is the Alt of Gill Sans, which numerals contain a different capline; as well the numerals become descenders. In the Bolder faces of this type the lowercase “r” loses its stroke to a more bulbous rounded end. The signature elongated uppercase “R” and lowercase “g” resembling eyeglasses are exemplary of the Futuristic movement in which Gill was a part of.

There is a rule in determining whether or not a typeface is considered to be legible. Gill Sans defies the standard because the x-height of this font face is slightly smaller than your average face that’s awarded on the fact of legibility alone. Probably one of the greatest qualities Gill Sans has is that it is spaced efficient when used in body text therefore giving the designer knowledge that they can work well incorporating this font into wordy body copy.

Gill Sans is feature in much of the British Culture. It is the font used for all the street signs in the United Kingdom. The font was practically adopted by the U.K. as the type of the mid 19th century. Terror Island an online magazine uses this font as its cover and body text. Among more notable things Gill Sans is also featured as the Title for Wine and Dine Magazine (Ultra Bold), Popular children’s animated film Chicken Little (ultra bold), Local Retail Eyeglasses store Eyeglass World they incorporate the “g” and use it as eyeglasses, Popular British Act Bloc Party use Gill sans as their main text in the first two album release as well as making it the font to signify the band Bloc Party. Among others include Mega hardware store HOME DEPOT which use the font in various signage around the store. Lionardo DeCaprio directed Environmental Documentary :An Inconvenient Truth which contained Gill Sans Bold. Gill Sans has played a significant role this year especially in the two thousand and nine presidential election. President Barack Obama used Gill Sans for his presidential logo during the running of his campaign for presidency.

Upon further examination of the font, Gill San’s bold typeface needs to be reworked. It is true what they say, the font is unique and a hybrid amongst a plethora of futuristic typefaces. However there are still qualities about the bold typeface that do work. In a more signage design format the font has it’s playful qualities. Moreover, the term novelty could be used for the bold typeface of this font. I think it is also very interesting how many different variations of the font there are out for the public to ascertain. That is why the font should be reworked. I do not know to what extent. There is a great discrepancy in the typeface that needs to be corrected perhaps changing the bulbous lower case “r”, even condensing some of the typeface or creating a proper x-height instead of it’s slightly smaller size, these are simply three ideas to try and work out. So the question is why is there not a corrected or updated version? With the amount of fonts circulating today could it be fair game that if someone considered reworking the bold face of Gill Sans they could they call it Gill Sans Neue? Would Eric Gill get all the credit or would the other designer also be accredited to the contribution of the advancements in timeless typefaces. Also, I am not a fan of the italic “p” that whole crossing over strokes is not pleasing to the eye. Sure it looks like a person would make the stroke but seriously this font could be amongst the great like Avant Garde, Futura, and Frutiger. The “g” resembling eyeglasses is genius on the part of Eric Gill.

Through examining this font I have gained a greater knowledge of a font that on paper looks amazing, yet with a closer look you see that there are significant flaws in the design. However, conceptually, understanding what Gill was trying to do lends Gill Sans to be a great font for design. Gill Sans Regular and Light are the choices I would use the font in poster design as well as for body type. Considering all the factors the typeface with the flaws is the most efficient in space. With the intentional shortening of the x-height which has managed to create a much more condensed body copy. It would be fair to say that if the whole world used Gill Sans as body copy we would technically be helping the environment by saving on paper waste. Even the hard sculpted strokes create the dominance of an aesthetically pleasing font, but also a legibility factor that pulls from both classical and futuristic styles. The “melting pot” font is what I like to call Gill Sans. Sometimes breaking the rules makes the rules.


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