Not a Fan of the Gill Sans

Gill Sans Ultra Bold Image

Here is an example of Gill Sans Ultra Bold. This file format is a PNG, so the background will be transparent.

Why are so many people a fan of Gill Sans? Sure, I get that it is a typeface with some personality… a little quirky. But look at that ‘i’ in Gill Sans Ultra Bold. This goes beyond quirky. I just cannot reconcile this typeface as a proportional, well-designed one.

A little history:

It was designed by Eric Gill in 1928. It was inspired by Edward Johnson’s type for the London Underground Railroad of 1916. Stanley Morison, who had seen Gill’s letters on a storefront sign, urged the designer to develop the letters into a typeface. Morison’s encouragement of Gill resulted in the design and release of Gill Sans by Monotype in 1929. It quickly became the most popular sans-serif typeface in Great Britain. This typeface is thought to be Gill’s most significan design accomplishment. (source: Typographic Specimens: The Great Typefaces, by Philip Meggs and Rob Carter).

Carter and Meggs go on to claim this typeface is: a humanist face meticulously patterned after classic roman character proportions and this gained it a reputation as the most legible sans-serif design of the time.

They also continue on to acknowledge what I feel: Gill Sans is not without flaws. In essence they go on to say it is often criticized for it’s use as a text face. Which I agree with and would take it a step further. Don’t even use it as display type!

letter press image of Gill

Even Gill Sans looks good letter pressed. This is a photo of a letter press sheet. Because it is a photo for the web, it is a jpeg.

Ok, ok… I acknowledge each typeface has its time and place. And yes, Gill Sans can be beautiful too. Take this letterpress image of it from Crazy Bear Studio Letter Press. In its pure essence it’s not as evil as I claim. But Seriously you can make any typeface beautiful if you are going to letter press it!

And further below is an example of Gill Sans as a simple composition… again can be beautiful when not used as type in context. Shall I rest my case? Note this last image is a gif… read the caption if you are unsure why the gif format is appropriate here.


This image of Gill Sans is a gif because it uses flat limited number of colors.