Eric Gill – the past, present and future of type design

As it updates two of Eric Gill’s best-known typefaces, Monotype is delving into the type designer’s archive. We take a look at some of his key sketches, workings and correspondence.

An early proof of Gill Shadow
An early proof of Gill Shadow

Monotype is updating two of Eric Gill’s most famous typefaces – Gill Sans and Joanna – to create the new Eric Gill Series of fonts.

The new Eric Gill series features more than 75 fonts in three families.

Gill Sans was first released by Monotype in 1928 and became the foundry’s fifth best-selling typeface of the 20th century, while Joanna was released in 1931 and was named after one of Gills’ daughters.

To mark the release of the typefaces, Monotype is set to hold an exhibition at London’s Truman Brewery showcasing archive material relating to the typefaces’ development.

The show will feature test prints for display weights that were never digitised, correspondence and hand-drawings from Gill and copper-plates from the letterpress production of the typefaces.

Visitors will be able to “set” super-sized glyphs of Gill typefaces on a magnetic wall, and consultancy Field has created a digital installation that will aim to “show type as an emotive and adaptive means of communication”.

You can examine some of the archive Gill material in our picture gallery below.


The Eric Gill Series exhibition runs from 4-10 November at the Old Truman Brewery, 91 Brick Lane, London E1. For more information visit www.eventbrite.com.

Gill Sans

1928 ink drawings for Gill Sans Titling caps, the first style of what would become a large family of typefaces
1928 ink drawings for Gill Sans Titling caps, the first style of what would become a large family of typefaces
A 1929 Gill Sans production drawing shows how characters based on the same shape were prepared on the same sheet to maintain consistency
A 1929 Gill Sans production drawing shows how characters based on the same shape were prepared on the same sheet to maintain consistency
An early test proof of Gill Sans Shadow No 3
An early test proof of Gill Sans Shadow No 3
A test of spacing using only the limited set of letters created for this display size of Gill Sans Extra Bold
A test of spacing using only the limited set of letters created for this display size of Gill Sans Extra Bold
In 1930 Gill investigated another weight of the Titling Caps by drawing over a proof set a few months earlier
In 1930 Gill investigated another weight of the Titling Caps by drawing over a proof set a few months earlier
The widespread popularity of Gill Sans inspired many playful display styles, shown here with Gill’s notes and alterations
The widespread popularity of Gill Sans inspired many playful display styles, shown here with Gill’s notes and alterations
Gill Sans details
Gill Sans details
Gill’s first sketches for Gill Kayo – “Double-elefans” – from September 1932
Gill’s first sketches for Gill Kayo – “Double-elefans” – from September 1932
Gill’s revised drawings from October 1932 show the Gill Kayo design that was finally produced
Gill’s revised drawings from October 1932 show the Gill Kayo design that was finally produced
Gill added lowercase letters to Gill Kayo in February 1933
Gill added lowercase letters to Gill Kayo in February 1933
The release of Gill Kayo (UltraBold) in Monotype Newsletter No. 27 (1936) was certainly not understated
The release of Gill Kayo (UltraBold) in Monotype Newsletter No. 27 (1936) was certainly not understated

Joanna

Original 1939 ink drawings by Eric Gill used as reference by Monotype's Type Drawing Office to prepare its version of Joanna Italic
Original 1939 ink drawings by Eric Gill used as reference by Monotype’s Type Drawing Office to prepare its version of Joanna Italic
One of the Caslon Foundry drawings for the first cutting of Joanna
One of the Caslon Foundry drawings for the first cutting of Joanna
Joanna's commercial release in 1958 was accompanied by an issue of The Monotype Recorder devoted to Gill's typefaces and lettering
Joanna’s commercial release in 1958 was accompanied by an issue of The Monotype Recorder devoted to Gill’s typefaces and lettering

Field’s installations

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