The Tuesday Type: Gill Sans

An English Font That Covers My Interests

There’s perhaps no other type that could say so much about myself than Gill Sans. This sans-serif font in recent times has become my default font for almost everything writer and design related. There are many reasons for this font that I relate a lot to, some of which I will cover below.

The British Helvetica

Gill Sans is a modern entry into the complex world of typography. Created by British Typist Eric Gill in 1928, Gill Sans was inspired by the Underground Alphabet, created earlier in the 20th century for the London Underground. Gill Sans was later used by Penguin Publisher for their famous orange and white Penguin Classics, starting in 1937. It’s a type continuously used for that cover to this day and has almost become as iconic as the covers themselves.

The typeface was also used by London North Eastern Railway (LNER) in this period as well, appearing on their locomotives like Mallard (the fastest steam locomotive in the world). British Railways would later use the type too, upon nationalisation of the railways in the UK in 1948. It would appear everywhere for British Railways (BR), from advertisements to station names.

It’s this diversity where it can be considered the British Helvetica. The type has become tied to the UK just like Helvetica has done for Switzerland.

Images: Examples of Gill Sans Being Used. West Riding Limited Image originally from Getty Images

My Font of Choice

Since learning more about it in my graphic design studios in 2020, Gill Sans has now become my choice of type. From my resume to the logo on this website, I’ve been using this type everywhere. Perhaps the main reason for this is my connection to the type and where it’s been used in the past.

To say I was obsessed with trains as a kid is an understatement. I was the train kid, the one who would speak of nothing else but trains. My favourite sort of trains were the British ones, particularly of the LNER. I also loved the later ads by BR from the 1950s and 1960s, loving their use of type and colour. Alongside this love for trains, I also loved reading. The orange and white Penguin books in particular have stuck out to me throughout my childhood and to this day. They’re books with quality stories between their covers that are affordable.

A Strong Clean Type

It’s these connections why I’ve made Gill Sans my type of choice. The type combines all my interests into something that’s clean and easy to read. I’ve come to use it on my job applications as well as it’s a far less used type than Arial and Times New Roman, which I rarely use anymore. It has allowed my job applications to stand out, all while remaining simple and clean. The type also works effectively for logos and posters, aided by its clean, strong appearance. Particularly when bold, the type is strong and conveys the message clearly.

Gill Sans has all of these benefits, but it also struggles with some significant weaknesses. Like a number of sans-serif typefaces, it’s good for short writing and titles, not for long-form reading, especially with digital. A page full of Gill Sans like how you’re reading this just doesn’t work. Even with adequate spacing, it’s harder to read on screen than a serif font. It works more effectively, in my opinion, on print documents like magazines or books with small amounts of writing. It’s less effective in traditional long-form narrative books and can be harder to read.

An Example of Gill Sans and the many different levels of thickness of type. Type used is Gill Sans Nova, licenced by Adobe Creative Cloud.


Gill Sans isn’t the most perfect type in the world, but it’s one that’s clean and has a lot of meaning for me personally. This is the font of choice if you’re doing any project that is connected to anything British, or if you have an interest in Penguin books. I also find it a great type for job applications, being both familiar and not too out there. It’s a great type for about anything short-form, logo and branding, or medium length print documents.  


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