Gills Sans – the next Helvetica

I love typefaces. I really do. It gives me no better pleasure than to be able to identify a font by looking at the letterforms. Even the dreaded Helvetica, that over-used font of the visual world, is popular today for a reason. It is multi-purpose, well designed, and sleek and modern.

But as designers tend to stray away from anything over-used and trendy (we have to set the trends), I’ve noticed that a new font is replacing Helvetica in the forefront for the “go-to” sans-serif — Gill Sans. Now, as Gill Sans originated in England, the British people have been bombarded with the typeface in their culture, from BBC’s logo to the railway system (here is a good article on the two most famous British type faces and a comparative study: However, if you look around in America, you can slowly see it infiltrating everywhere.

I’m starting to see Gill Sans used in storefronts, prescription medicine commercials, massage brochures, you name it. I am wondering if the people doing this are really graphic designers, or marketers who are doing some publishing? Are the designers the ones to blame for this overuse? Maybe.

I will note that Gill Sans takes its form in a large part from the earlier humanist forms (like Johnston, its distant cousin) along with the more modern geometric forms — it is this mix of history and modernity that is just one of the many reasons that makes Gill so special in many designer’s hearts.

I am afraid, however, of the misuse and abuse of the font, since it is now packaged as a system font. Please, especially if you are not a designer, do not use this font. I do not want it to become a typographic “no-no”, like when professors tell you to not use anything with a city name or Helvetica itself.

Sometime a typeface is just appropriate for a situation, no matter how much you don’t want to use it. So, I will get over it and still use Gill Sans as much as I can.

Look at that g!

Look at that g!

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  1. […] thanks to its inclusion on Mac OS X and Microsoft Office. It can be seen everywhere, used (or overused) on everything from corporate logos to movie posters—one industry that […]

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