The Gill Sans® Nova family is part of Monotype’s revived and reimaged Eric Gill Series suite of typefaces. An homage to Eric Gill’s original Gill Sans family, the Gill Sans Nova typefaces are contemporary digital designs, in a wide range of weights, with alternate characters and extended language support.
Eric Gill's namesake design is one of few typefaces with roots in the 20th century can claim its place as a true classic – and a cornerstone of typographic communication.
Inspired by Gill’s work with British calligrapher Edward Johnston on the signage for the London Underground early in the 20th century, Gill Sans grew out of hand lettered signage by Gill in 1926. Monotype’s typographic advisor, Stanley Morison, himself one of the most influential type minds of the 20th century, recognized the possibilities for a new sans serif typeface, and commissioned Gill to develop a design based on his lettering.
There have been updates and additions made to the Gill Sans family since the first designs were announced in 1928. Sprawling across scores of derivatives, many of the designs were created by the Monotype drawing office, with input from Gill as a consultant to the design project – while others were produced without input from the master type designer.
Over time, many of the designs were also updated as typesetting technologies evolved from mechanical to phototypesetting in the 1970s, to digital fonts, when the desktop revolution of the mid 80s took hold. The revisions happened in fragments, however, leaving the family a patchwork of weights and styles. While Gill’s typefaces were originally intended for print, early in 2014, Monotype saw the opportunity to enhance the designs to create a cohesive family ideally suited to both print and digital environments.
Gill Sans Nova, by Monotype’s George Ryan, expands the original family from 18 to 43 designs and features a coordinated range of weights of roman and condensed styles, in addition to several new display designs.
An artist whose legacy is marred by troubling contradictions of character, Eric Gill still remains one of the major type designers of the 20th century. A prolific designer, he was responsible for some of Monotype’s most influential and important typefaces. In addition to typeface design, Gill was a writer, sculptor, illustrator, calligrapher and stonecutter. He was also argumentative. At times he was misguided. His basic goals regarding the typographic arts, however, were important and consistent. They were, according to him, to create, “Absolutely legible-to-the-last-degree letters, provide beauty of form to all printed communication, and maintain the dignity of and drawn letterforms.” Ryan brings a rich career of drawing letters to the new Gill Sans Nova designs. Born in Rockville Centre, New York, in 1950, Ryan was in his late 20s and working in a print shop when he saw a want ad for “letter drawers” at Linotype in the classifieds of a newspaper. “The rest,” according to Ryan, “is history – my history.” Having worked at Linotype, Bitstream and Galapagos, Ryan joined Monotype in 2004, where he is now a senior typeface designer.
The Gill Sans Nova series retains the unique look of the original designs – but adds to this new weights, new characters, including a glyph set that supports most Central European and many Eastern European languages. OpenType® features make it possible to include experimental ideas from different points in the design’s history, including pointed diagonals on ‘A’, ‘V’ and ‘W’ and alternatives for ‘b’, ‘d’, ‘p’ and ‘q.’ OpenType also provides for the automatic insertion of small caps, ligatures and alternate characters drawn for the new design. The characters of Gill Sans Nova, like the original Gill Sans, are based on classic roman letterforms, making them remarkably legible. The design also has a more pronounced contrast in stroke widths than most serifless fonts, rendering it more appealing to the eye, and ultimately more readable in text copy, than its mono-weight cousins.
The light weights are perfect for headlines and other large settings, as well as blocks of copy at text sizes. The regular, medium and bold weights know no boundaries and the heavy and extra bold designs are ideal for when typography needs to be powerful and commanding. Originally developed for hardcopy print applications, the new family is now equally at home in virtually any digital environment. The Gill Sans Nova typefaces can be used just about anywhere – and for any project.