Type Trading Cards: Bembo/Gill Sans
The history of Bembo originates in Venice, an important typographic center in 15th and 16th century Europe. Many printers established businesses in Venice at this time, but none so significant as Aldus Manutius. Next to Gutenberg, Aldus was perhaps the most influential printer of the Renaissance – and the first of many great scholar–printers. Late in the 15th century, Aldus published a relatively insignificant essay by the Italian scholar Pietro Bembo. The type used for the text was a new design commissioned by Aldus and cut by Francesco Griffo, a goldsmith–turned–punchcutter.
Griffo’s design was lighter and more harmonious in weight than earlier romans. Text set in the face was also more inviting and easier to read than previous designs. Three years later, the basic font was enhanced by the introduction of a suite of corresponding capital letters. (Capitals were pulled from other fonts prior to the release of these new designs.)
Were it not for Stanley Morison, Gill Sans would never have seen printer’s ink. After reviving several classical type styles to serve as the foundation of the new Monotype typeface library, Morison wanted to develop a truly modern face, one that could compete with the deluge of sans serif designs being released by German foundries as a result of the overwhelming success of Futura.
Because the characters of the Gill Sans alphabet are based on classic roman letterforms and not geometric shapes, they are remarkably legible. Gill Sans also has a more pronounced contrast in stroke widths than most serifless fonts, making the design more appealing to the eye, and ultimately more readable, than its monoweight cousins. Rounding out the list of Gill’s practical benefits: the face is space-economical. More information can be set in a given space when using Gill Sans than with most other sans serif designs.
Have a suggestion for a future trading card? Let us know!
- Allan Haley is Director of Words & Letters at Monotype Imaging. Here he is responsible for strategic planning and creative implementation of just about everything related to typeface designs. He is also responsible for editorial content for the company’s type libraries and Web sites.
- Prior to working for Monotype, Mr. Haley was Principal of Resolution, a consulting firm with expertise in fonts, font technology, type and typographic communication. He was also executive vice president of International Typeface Corporation.
- Mr. Haley is ex officio Chairman of the Board of the Society of Typographic Aficionados, and past President of the New York Type Directors Club. He is highly regarded as an educator and is a frequently requested speaker at national computer and design conferences.
- Mr. Haley is also a prolific writer, with five books on type and graphic communication and hundreds of articles for graphic design publications to his credit.