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Joanna® Sans Nova

By Monotype

Terrance Weinzierl

Joanna Sans Nova

The Joanna® Sans Nova family is the only typeface in the Eric Gill Series that was not initially designed by Gill. Created by Monotype Studio designer Terrance Weinzierl over a three-year period with digital applications at the forefront of the design criteria, Joanna Sans Nova is a humanist sans serif based primarily on Gill's original Joanna. The design comprises 16 fonts, from thin to black, each with a complementary italic.

Joanna Sans Nova has a larger x-height than the original design to ensure high levels of legibility - even on small digital screens. Due to its inherent humanist proportions, Joanna Sans Nova is surprisingly comfortable for longer form reading. Its low contrast in character stroke weights also improves imaging in a variety of environments. In addition, the calligraphic and fluid details enable the roman and italic designs to shine in headlines and other display uses.

Joanna Sans features a robust range of OpenType features for fine typography, including small caps, old style figures, proportional figures, ligatures, superscript and subscript figures and support for fractions. With over 1000 glyphs per font, Joanna Sans supports more than 50 languages - including is equipped Greek, and Cyrillic.

"I've always been a fan of Gill's work, explains Weinzierl, and found the simple, humanist qualities of Joanna really fitting for a sans serif design. I wanted to make something with Gill flavor, but with more harmony in the extreme weights than Gill Sans - and with my twist on it. I went through six or seven different italic designs before landing on the current direction."

"The original Joanna had a very distinct italic, Weinzierl continues. "It's very condensed, and hasa very shallow angle. I wanted to have an italic that stood out, but in a different way. I took a cursive direction for the italic details, which are wider and slanted more, both improving character legibility."

The Joanna Sans Nova typeface family is part of the new Eric Gill series, drawing on Monotype's heritage to remaster and expand and revitalize Eric Gill's body of work, with more weights, more characters and more languages to meet a wide range of design requirements. The series also brings to life new elements inspired by some of Gill's unreleased work, discovered in Monotype's archive of original typeface drawings and materials of the last century.

KEYWORDS: Eric Gill, Monotype, contemporary, humanist, sans serif, extended Latin, Greek, European, British, popular, clean, legible, elegant, readable, inspiration, on-screen, print, headlines, display, original

After joining Monotype in 2010, Terrance Weinzierl was studying the company’s library of typefaces looking for ways to expand and improve on Monotype’s many classic designs. Having been a fan of Eric Gill’s work for some time, the slab serif Joanna stood out. After initial sketches, Weinzierl decided to pursue a reimagining of Joanna – in a sans serif form. Following nearly three years of research and development, the new family was ready to be released.

Joanna Sans borrows heavily from Joanna, but takes a direction of its own. The design borrows influences from other Gill faces, like the low stroke weight contrast of Gill Sans and the calligraphic foundation of Perpetua, but is a 21st century interpretation of Gill’s design ethic. The scale of the body and x-height of Joanna Sans have been increased from the original Joanna, to be better suited for contemporary demands of digital typography. It has the varying width proportions and open apertures of a humanistic typeface, but also has hints of a geometric sans. 

After starting his own sign painting business when he was 16, and a brief stint as a radio DJ for a classic rock station, Terrance Weinzierl found himself studying art and design at Grand Valley State University, in Michigan. It was here that he fell in love with type.

He was hooked after receiving his first lecture on typefaces. "I learned that type design is not a dead practice,” he recalls, “but alive and well – fueled by a rich history and changing technologies."

During a study abroad program in London, Weinzierl found further inspiration from the award winning London Underground system map, and Edward Johnston’s branding typeface for the Underground. "Truly well designed things, like the London Underground system map and typeface,” he explains, “can affect millions of people in a ubiquitous way."

Soon after graduation in 2008, Weinzierl joined Ascender as a type designer and font developer. He is currently a Monotype Studio designer and has helped to develop custom fonts for Microsoft®, Google®, and Barnes & Noble® – as well as various design firms, ad agencies, and publishers. The Type Directors Club and Print magazine has also recognized the excellence of Weinzierl’s work. When not designing typefaces, he augments his professional practice through calligraphy, lettering, and letterpress printing.

“I wanted to design something that would compliment the already extensive libraries at Monotype,” explains Weinzierl about how he approached the Joanna Sans project. “I wanted to design a typeface that was familiar, but still looked fresh. My goal was to have a balance of simplicity, beauty, and usability.” “I've always been a fan of Gill's work,” Weinzierl continues, “and I found the simple, humanist qualities of Joanna really fitting for a sans design. I wanted to make something with Gill flavor, but with more harmony in the extreme weights than Gill Sans – and with my twist on it.”

The original Joanna has a distinct italic; it's exceptionally condensed, and has a very shallow angle. Weinzierl’s goal with Joanna Sans Italic was to draw a design that stood out – but in a different way, and in a different direction than Gill took. “I took a cursive direction for the italic details,” explains Weinzierl, “they are wider and slanted more than the original Joanna.” The italics for Joanna Sans are expressive, striking and alive with calligraphic inspired details. The more fluid shapes in the italics contrast nicely with the stately roman weights, not serving as a subordinate – but rather a companion. 

Weinzierl’s Joanna Sans family is available in 16 styles with 8 weights, from thin to black. The designs are supported by a robust range of OpenType® features for creating fine typography. These include small capitals, old style figures, proportional figures, ligatures, superscript and subscript figures, and support for fractions. With over 1000 glyphs per font, Joanna Sans is equipped with extended Latin, Greek, and Cyrillic characters and supports more than 50 languages.

“I designed Joanna Sans to be pretty flexible,” says Weinzierl. The typeface is larger on the body than the original Joanna, which was developed for letterpress printing. As a result, Joanna Sans’ x-height is larger, ensuring high quality on-screen rendering. Because of its humanistic proportions the design is also surprisingly comfortable for long-form reading. Low stroke contrast also improves legibility at small sized text.

Joanna Sans has a simple elegance that makes it for perfect for publication applications, in addition to packaging and branding design.

Bembo® Book, DIN Next™ Slab, Egyptian Slate™, Frutiger® Serif, FF Meta®, Neue Swift®, ITC Officina® Serif, Perpetua®, PMN Caecilia®

Humanistic Sans
Sans Serif