Eric Gill's opinionated manifesto on typography argues that 'a good piece of lettering is Gill Essay Typography as beautiful a thing to see as any sculpture or painted picture'. This essay
Today over Gill Sans designs are available digitally, with mainstream reach thanks to its inclusion on and . It can be seen everywhere, used (or ) on everything from corporate logos to movie posters—one that has the unusual Ultra Bold.
is based on a single character, which Eric Gill drew as a decorated initial for use on a specimen of his type. When asked him to produce a full alphabet, he refused at first. Morison insisted, and finally Gill drew a few more characters from which the Type Drawing Office was able to create a full set. It was released as a digital font in the 1990s.
Morison commissioned Gill to develop Gill Sans after they had begun to work together (often by post since Gill lived in Wales) on Gill's serif design from 1925 onwards; they had known each other since about 1913. Morison visited Cleverdon's bookshop while in Bristol in 1927 where he saw and was impressed by Gill's fascia and alphabet. Gill wrote that "it was as a consequence of seeing these letters" that Morison commissioned him to develop a sans-serif family.
Comparison of uppercase ‘K’ and ‘T’ in Gill Sans and Johnston.
In the period during and after his closest collaboration with Johnston, Gill had intermittently worked on sans-serif letter designs, including an almost sans-serif capital design in an alphabet for sign-painters in the 1910s, some "absolutely legible-to-the-last-degree ... simple block letters" for in 1925 and some capital letter signs around his home in , Wales. Gill had greatly admired Johnston's work on their Underground project, which he wrote had redeemed the sans-serif from its "nineteenth-century corruption" of extreme boldness. Johnston apparently had not tried to turn the alphabet (as it was then called) that he had designed into a commercial typeface project. He had tried to get involved in type design before starting work on Johnston Sans, but without success since the industry at the time mostly created designs in-house. Morison similarly respected the design of the Underground system, one of the first and most lasting uses of a standard lettering style as corporate branding (Gill had designed a set of serif letters for ), writing that it "conferred upon [the lettering] a sanction, civic and commercial, as had not been accorded to an alphabet since the time of Charlemagne".
Visions of Joanna: Mark Thomson on Eric Gill’s Essay on Typography
Eric Gill’s best-known typeface came into being after ’s spotted the sign Gill had painted for Douglas Cleverdon’s bookshop in Bristol. Morison ordered a typeface based on those monumental sans-serif capitals. During its first decades, was recommended for advertising and display use only. But as readers got used to reading sans-serif, Gill Sans turned out to work well for body text in magazines as well as books. As Gill himself wrote, Gill Sans was largely indebted to the typeface drawn in 1913 by his former calligraphy tutor, .
Nonetheless, Gill Sans rapidly became popular after its release.
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