Our weekly look at a favorite new typeface. Share yours with us on Twitter and Instagram @AIGAdesign with #TypeTuesday.
Name: The Eric Gill Series
Designers: Steve Matteson, George Ryan, Ben Jones, and Terrance Weinzierl
Release Date: November 4, 2015
Back Story: In the 1920s and ’30s, artist and type designer Eric Gill created two typefaces immune to the whims of time and fashion, Gill Sans and Joanna. One of the hallmarks of Gill Sans is a wide variance of its different weights, the result of a two-stage thought process: the first draft was worked out from classic Roman type proportions, and the second pass refined through an overlay of geometry.
The light version of Gill Sans has an open, airy quality (also reflected in the bold family), followed by a more squat and robust regular weight. The extra and ultra bold weights sport a kind of lunatic exuberance, the typographic equivalent of clown shoes.
Why’s it called the Eric Gill Series? The name and identity for the reissue make clear that this is a meticulous retooling that honors the eccentric, intelligent blueprint of Gill’s letterforms. Smart move, Monotype! The designers collaborated on a total of 77 typefaces across three families, drawing on rich archives that hold many of Gill’s original sketches, notes, and working drawings. How’d they pull it off?
According to Steve Matteson, Monotype’s creative type director, “Challenges were more pronounced in the revival of Gill Sans because of its highly recognizable status—people have exceptions and preferences for its ‘true’ appearance. For the most part, an effort was made to retain quirks in Gill Sans and execute more contemporary approaches in the two Joanna designs. It seemed the best way to keep a foot in the past with an eye towards the future.”
What are its distinguishing characteristics? Both Gill Sans Nova and Joanna Nova were tweaked and refined for digital uses, adding stylized characters plus language and Open Type support for the digital age. Gill Sans now offers 43 weights, up from the original 18, including a suite of six inline weights and shadowed outline fonts revived from the original design (and never before digitized), plus the Gill Sans Nova Deco typeface, previously withdrawn from the Monotype library. Joanna Nova features 18 weights, also up from the original six, and its Open Type features now include small caps for all scripts, numeral options, and context-sensitive ligatures. Joanna Sans Nova was created from scratch as a sans serif alternative specifically for digital applications.
What should I use it for? Gill Sans Nova is a workhorse. Use the middle weights for text in practically any application you can think of, whether screen or print, and try the bolder and light for display. Joanna Nova is great for books or lengthy texts, while the Sans Nova mixes in nicely wherever a sans serif is needed for contrast or display in digital uses.
Who’s it friends with? Like your high school classmate voted Most Popular, these typefaces get along well with everybody. Try them with Caslon, Centaur, or Goudy Old Style for a start. And if you’re feeling bold enough to play with two sans serifs, have a look at Bell Gothic. But really, you can’t go wrong.