P3 Type & Hierarchy: Part 2

London Underground Logo

Gill Sans is a sans-serif typeface that was created in 1926 by Eric Gill and was issued by Monotype in 1928. It is rooted from the “Johnston” typeface by Edward Johnston that was designed for the London Underground Railway. It is also called the ‘Helvetica of England.’

Gill Sans regular typeface

The design aimed for posters and advertisements with its bold characteristic. Gill Sans was originally designed only for uppercase letters, but lowercase design followed a year after it was released. The design stems from the monumental Roman capitals in its uppercase fonts and old style serif in its lowercase fonts, which gives the Gill Sans typeface a different feel from regular sans-serif typefaces. It influenced a lot of other typefaces and contributed in defining a genre for the sans-serif typeface: the humanist style.

Left: Eric Gill as a young man, 1908 (Photo: Harry Ransom Center); Right: Drawing by Eric Gill, 1933 (Photo: St Bride Library via Fontblog.de)
major characteristics of Gill Sans compared to other sans-serif style

Gill Sans used “double-story” design for “a” and “g” instead of the “single-story” design, which was more commonly used for serif than sans-serif.

Comparison between different Gill Sans font styles

Another characteristic is that its italic style is different from its regular style, where most sans-serif just slant the letters for their italic style. It was also known for its inconsistency among different weights.

difference between Johnston (upper) and Gill Sans (bottom)

Gill Sans was also different from Johnston in several ways. Some examples are the “Q” had a tail that descended and the “a” had more variation in thickness.

Documentation | Gill Sans Poster