Is this a Gill Sans Variant?

Lukas Horn
Lukas Horn Posts: 14
edited September 2020 in Education
Hey all,

I discovered in a book shop this typeface and I it hardly reminded me of Gill Sans:

This is some kind of variant, right? If not, what's the name and the story of it? And by the way could you make any guess from this poor photo if it's a metal typeface (the book is from 1945)?

Thanks for your help!


  • George Thomas
    George Thomas Posts: 638
    edited September 2020
    From the Rules:
    2. Post appropriately.
    Post topics appropriate for TypeDrawers, and post them in the appropriate category. Dialogue should remain about typeface design, lettering, and subjects that affect the community as a whole. If the topic you wish to discuss doesn’t fit in any of those categories, it’s because there are better venues for subjects like typography advice, typeface identification, and graphic design feedback.
    There are some people on that site who are extremely good at typeface identification.
  • John Hudson
    John Hudson Posts: 3,036
    edited September 2020
    I concur with Nick that this isn't a typical 'Can anyone identify this font?' ID query of the kind that plagues some other forums. The typeface is of historical interest, and the original poster knows enough to realise that it seems to be some kind of variant of Gill Sans, and is wondering what the story behind it is. That seems to me legitimate content for TypeDrawers, and if in doubt maybe we should leave it to the moderators?
  • John Hudson
    Also, this variant of Gill Sans has always been of categorical interest, since it straddles the presumed boundary between ur Humanist and ur Geometric designs.
  • John Savard
    John Savard Posts: 1,099
    edited September 2020
    Also, if a book is from 1945, it would kind of have to have been in a metal typeface. Phototypesetting hadn't been invented yet. (Actually, that's not strictly true, but it most definitely would not be in widespread use for a few decades yet.)

    (Linotype similarly made Futura-like variants for Metro, and then a shameless rip-off with Spartan.)
    That of course reminds me of what Intertype did. Vogue, their answer to the popularity of Futura, was anything but indistinguishable from Futura, so it wasn't in the "shameless rip-off" category.

    I remember that typeface primarily from the pages of Cracked magazine, and I will have to admit that I had always found it an unattractive typeface.

  • Christian Thalmann
    Considering the cool rationality of the other characters, I find the infant /a/ eye-catchingly unbalanced and lumpy. Possibly it was built from the counter-humanist bowl of /d/? A pity!
  • Lukas Horn
    Thank you for your answers, what an interesting topic!

    Especially the link to the infant topic. Because I wasn't aware of the tradition of this kind of variation in Germany and Poland. What's also interesting is that you look on the typeface and you can't decide if it is more Gill or Futura (or maybe Metro?).

    Why I was observing the typeface with curiousity–and why I had to ask about this topic in the forum–was an article one of you shared at typedrawers. It's about Nicolas Jenson. In the article (under the point 'The Castaldi mutation and the choice of letterforms') the author speaks of mutations of letters. If someone bought typefaces from Jenson, they had their own taste of certain letter forms, thus they changed them (e.g. they changed the letter h with the straight leg to a bowled one).

  • Nick Shinn
    Nick Shinn Posts: 2,158
    edited September 2020
    Here’s another with stylistic variants, from the 1930s.
    Both geometric; I would sub-categorize them as neoclassical and art deco.
    The neoclassical one is Kabel, or a clone thereof.

  • Albert_Jan_Pool
    Monotype sold matrices for a number of variant glyphs that could make Gill Sans look more Futura-like, since the company didn't have rights to adapt Futura to its machines. (Linotype similarly made Futura-like variants for Metro, and then a shameless rip-off with Spartan.) Since Monotype made it easy enough to mix-and-match standard and variant matrices, it can be tricky to find samples that use all the variants, but this pamphlet shows what was available.
    In Germany, the variant of Gill Sans with the single-storey aka one-eyed ‘a’ was also marketed as Gill Sans Continental.