Word: Type Specimen

Over the past two weeks, we have been set the task of creating a type specimen for an allocated type. I was given the typeface ‘Gill Sans’ designed by Eric Gill.

I research into Gill’s personal and professional background, to collate information to include in the three paragraphs of compulsory text on my specimen. From eleven pages of collected research from wikipedia.org, http://www.fountaintype.com, http://www.myfonts.com and http://www.ericgill.org.uk, I filtered through to find the essential and important information.

These are the three paragraphs I gathered for my specimen:

Arthur Eric Rowton Gill (22 February 1882 – 17 November 1940) was an English sculptor, typeface designer, stonecutter and printmaker most commonly known for his contribution to the type industry. Gill was named Royal Designer for Industry, the highest British award for designers, by the Royal Society of Arts. He also became a founder-member of the newly established Faculty of Royal Designers for Industry. Whilst studying to become an architect, Gill took evening classes in stonemasonry atWestminster Technical Institute and in calligraphy at the Central School of Arts and Crafts, where Edward Johnson, creator of the London Underground type face became a strong influence. In 1903 he gave up his architectural training to become a calligrapher, letter-cutter and monumental mason.

The process of designing the Gill Sans typeface stemmed from 1927 to 1930, based on the sans-serif lettering originally designed for the London Underground. Gill was originally involved in the design process of the London Underground lettering however dropped out at a late stage. The Gill Sans font is thought to be his completion of the work he began on this project, inspired heavily by his idol and friend, Edward Johnston.

One of the most famous British typefaces, Gill Sans, was used in the classic design system of Penguin Books and by British Railways, with many additional styles created by Monotype both during and after Gill’s lifetime. In the 1990s, the BBC adopted Gill Sans for its word mark and many of its on-screen television graphics. It was also adopted by Pixar, Saab magazine, McDonalds and PlanetFab design studio (creator of The King’s Speech film poster).

I then researched existing type specimens for the Gill Sans typeface and sketched their layout. From this, I began to form ideas of what I might like to include in my own type specimen.

Gill Sans existing posters

I then drew up sketches of my ideas for my own type specimen, including in each my three paragraphs, a heading, subheading, image and example of the whole typeface.

Gill Sans designs

I then played around on Illustrator and InDesign to try out some of my designs and see what looked the most informative, interesting and effective on screen.

These were some of my experimentations.

Gill Sans 1 JPEGGill Sans 4 JPEGGill Sans 3 JPEGGill Sans 2 JPEGI decided I best liked the use of white text on black, and so I decided to use a black background. I wanted to use the centre two columns for the text and heading, and so I used the rest of the space to create an interesting, low opacity collection of all of the letters and ligatures in the typeface.

Gill SansUPDATE: When I came to print my type specimen poster on deadline day, it was strikingly apparent that the colours appeared noticeably different on paper to how they had appeared on the screen. After hours of playing with opacity and consistently lowering the opacity of the background (because it appeared too bright on the screen), it was barely visible in print and I wished I had kept the opacity at a higher level. It was also brought to my attention in the print process that my body text font size was too large, and I needed to more obviously display the alphabet, punctuation and glyphs of the font. I experimented with these changes and I am now much happier with my specimen poster for Gill Sans.

Gill Sans PRINT6.jpg

I much prefer this poster. The decrease in pt. size adds instant professionalism and I think my additional display of the letters in different weights of the font shows the variety of the font. Though the background may look quite overpowering where the body text is concerned, I am confident that the background would not print as vibrantly as it is shown here, and my opacity choices are much better in this improved attempt. Through this project I learnt the importance of printing prior to deadline day, and printing throughout the creation process in fact. Colours almost always differ on screen to print and so it is important to print and make changes to your work so that you create the desired colours and shades upon printing and presenting. Through research I also learnt a lot about the design and construction of a type face, it’s different weights and ligatures and the use of it in society. Type, if legible, is not something most people even consider, and it is almost a shame that so much work goes into the creation of something which is just assumed to be, or is so taken for granted. I definitely have more of an appreciation for type designers and the influence that the work of designers, like Sans, has had on our modern British society.


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