The Bell Gothic™ font family was originally commissioned by the AT&T corporation for use in telephone books and other applications. It was created by typographer Chauncey H. Griffith in 1938 and was not available for general use until after 1978, when AT&T adopted the Bell Centennial™ font family instead.
When the AT&T corporation commissioned Chauncey H. Griffith to create the Bell font, they were looking for a number of useful features for inclusion in the finished typeface. Attractiveness was an important factor: so too the ability to print the font at fairly high speed on thin paper without loss of clarity. The font also had to be legible at very small sizes, as it would be used in their telephone books. For the same reason, Bell Gothic also had to be spatially economical, given the constraints of the medium it was to be published on.
At the time of the font’s creation, Griffith was heading the typographic development program at the Mergenthaler Linotype Company. Earlier in his career with Linotype, Griffith had been responsible for the production of a typeface known as the Excelsior™ font family, which had taken the newspaper industry by storm because of its impressive readability at tiny point sizes as well as its attractiveness.
When Bell Gothic was replaced by Bell Centennial in 1978, the original font was licensed for widespread use and released by Linotype. It later became very popular with the design community in publishing, logotype and informal use. Currently, the font is available in six variants including italic, bold and black.
Aside from its commissioned usage in AT&T telephone books - a function it performed for four decades – Bell Gothic has found success in other arenas. After its release to the general populous in the late seventies, Bell Gothic became the subject of extensive experimentation in type at modern creative locations like the Cranbrook Academy of Art, RISD and the Design Academy Eindhoven. The usage of Bell Gothic in design has continued to be widely debated and slightly controversial, as creative artists utilize the face in increasingly unusual ways, straying from its “intended use.” Nevertheless, the versatility of the font continues to inspire in the creation of corporate identities and published materials all over the world.