Snippet of the London Underground map

London Underground map

I’m rather enjoying this trip down memory lane, revisiting some of the interesting things I remember from my graphic design days, though I was always more of a ‘suit’ than a ‘roll neck’. I hope you are too, because I’m about to continue in this vein.

One of the great things about typography is the detail. We take the printed word and fonts for granted, so much so that we forget that someone very gifted actually invented each of them, drawing each letter out, labouring over every contour and fighting for them to get popular so that printers would design the blocks to print stuff using them.

One such someone was Eric Gill, a superb artist and – as it has emerged many years after his death – a complex, pretty disturbed individual. He did, however, give his talents and his name to one of the most recognisable typefaces around. You see, the eponymous Gill Sans typeface is the one used to this day on the London Underground, an infrastructure and system so brilliantly signposted and easy to follow that you’re only reminded of this when you try and navigate the systems of other world cities. It was also adopted by many of the UK regional railway bodies and graced advertising posters up and down the country for generations.

A long time ago, I wrote a corporate brochure using the Leitmotif of ‘renowned art’. As well as a Henry Moore statue, the Chrysler Building and a few others, I also featured Mr Gill and his Gill Sans typeface. Worthy company for an inspirational typeface I think.

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