Gill Sans alternatives

There’s really no need to use Gill Sans anymore. Even if you think you have to, you may get away with one of these alternatives. My favourite is Dover Sans by Robin Mientjes

Other humanist sans-serifs in a similar vein:

Agenda, Greg Thompson, Font Bureau / Type Network

Apres, David Berlow, Font Bureau / Type Network

Astoria, Alan Meeks, Alan Meeks Collection

Bliss, Jeremy Tankard, Jeremy Tankard Typography

Cronos, Robert Slimbach, Adobe Type

Documenta Sans, Frank Blokland, DTL

Dover Sans Text and Display, Robin Mientjes, Tiny Type Co

Edward, Hendrik Weber, form. Ourtype

Granby, Edward Johnston, Elsner + Flake

Halifax, Dieter Hofrichter, Hoftype

Johnston, Edward Johnston, David Farey, ITC

(Johnston) Underground, Edward Johnston, Richard Kegler, P22

London, Henrik Kubel, A2-Type

Mallory, Tobias Frere-Jones, Frere-Jones Type

Metro Office, Akira Kobayashi, Linotype

Mr. Eaves, Zuzana Licko, Emigre

New Atten, Miles Newlyn, Newlyn Type

Relay, Cyrus Highsmith, Occupant Fonts

Rowton Sans, Julien Priez, Hugo Dumont, Jérémie Hornus and Alisa Nowak, form. Font You

Seravek, Eric Olson, Process Type

Today Sans, Volker Küster, Elsner + Flake

Yoga Sans by Xavier Dupret, Monotype

Zeitung, Akiem Helmling, Bas Jacobs, Sami Kortemäki, Underware

I didn’t add links to these to encourage you to look for the foundry site yourself or go to your preferred type website. Licensing from the designers/foundry directly is always best. No middlemen = more reward for the people who did the work. Some of these typefaces are also available for renting, which can be advantageous if you only want to use them for a limited time.


Students and font licenses

Below, a comment from a Typedrawers discussion from last year that sparked my list of educational discounts for fonts. Recently, a friend who will take a new teaching position in the fall, asked my advice about classroom licenses and purchasing font collections, so perhaps this note is of help to more people here, too. 


I teach undergraduate and graduate students and I am very sure all of them but maybe the very beginners have/horde collections of (free) fonts I don’t want to know how and where they got them from. But I am totally to blame for that, too, at least in parts. Because I want them to practise choosing (the right) typefaces as much as possible, and to look beyond the tellerrand of fonts that come with the OS or Adobe applications. (These are actually almost banned by me). We have quite a big collection of classic typefaces (Font Folio and URW) and some hand full of newer typefaces, but I also want them to learn how to research what type foundries and offerings are out there, what fonts cost, how they can find the right typeface for their design (not one for the whole group), and also how to test these typefaces and make mockups without having the font files. Some developed really impressive skills in photoshopping MyFonts gifs and hacking FontShops rendering engine for their copy.

I like your idea [Silas Dilworth’s in the orginal message] of assigning a collection of fonts, and especially the class-room-multi-user idea (if I understood it correctly). But at the end of the day it all boils down to art schools without tuition fee, like in Germany, don’t have the funds to buy font licenses on a regular basis. The problem is not so much to get a license for 1–5 computers but to estimate and oversee bulk licenses, and come up with the budget for it. The students are usually using their own laptops in school. We for instance don’t have any school workstations or computer pools anymore where I would install the fonts. How many seats do I have to get with a changing number of students between 4 and 30? Are the foundries OK with the students installing them on their private computes, not the school machines? We don’t have a bookstore and our school is very small. Nobody wants to do the extra admin work, even I am not keen on that although I would do everything I possibly can to mediate in this matter.

Of course, students buy paper, computers, pencils and books for school, too, but only rarely are they willing to pay for font licenses for school assignments (some older students are starting to, though, my graduands did for their own final projects for instance). They want to try out the fonts before they buy, and I can understand that. It is only reasonably experienced designers who can judge a typeface by its specimen and imaging how it will behave in their real life environment, in their given language, before buying the cat in the bag. Stephen started this thread of foundry discounts on here, that is very helpful and I passed this on to the students. But honestly – they are not really helped with 10% off, they’d need at least 50% off to convince them. And then you have the problem again of what happens when they graduate. Are they to keep the license forever they paid at a student rate? Webfonts with trial licenses are at an advantage here, and I guess that all font-serving technologies could implement a testing-deal for matriculated students quite easily. Less so the small independent foundries I especially want the students to get to know of.

The best I seem to can do at the moment is emphasize and repeat every single day that it may be OK to show me this design idea with this font in class, but whenever they do something for the outside world or get paid for a design, they absolutely have to have their own license for the fonts they use. And I tell them how I obtained my collection of typefaces: by whenever I was asked to do something for a friend, family member or NGO for free (which was plenty), I said I would agree to go without payment but they have to pay for the font license. That always worked (and now I have quite a collection of script fonts :/ ).

On Responsive Typography

The idea of responsive web design and layout – as it was discussed in the past two years, e.g. by Ethan Marcotte – is to have a set of specifications that adjust to the requirements of a device, resulting in different layouts on different devices.

The idea of responsive typography – as it was discussed in the past months, e.g. by Oliver Reichenstein of iA – is to get the exact same impression of a typeface used for a text regardless of the device it is viewed on. But there is more to typography than just the typeface and the term responsive typography, in my opinion, is used ambiguously here. It should cover all aspects of typography and not just the topic of graded “responsive fonts” for different resolutions.

Typography is defined by typographic parameters. These are what you specify for composition. They all influence readability and they influence each other, meaning you cannot look at them isolated. That is:
– font (style, weight)
– font size
– line length
– line spacing
– word space
– letter spacing, tracking
– alignment, justification, hyphenation
– line breaks, paragraph breaks, make-up
– colour, contrast

If you specify these things and send it to someone at the other end of the world, they can reproduce the exact same column of text. This is the basic idea of typography. But – is the idea of “responsiveness” to ensure the exact same design or to adjust the parameters for optimal output on a specific device? What is optimal typography on a standard TFT screen is not the same as what might be optimal on a phone, even if we ensure the font weight in both versions look the same. The resolution and rendering method is different but also other screen settings like contrast and colour, the format, and the reading distance is different.

Shorter lines can get away with smaller font sizes, smaller word spaces, less line spacing but they need hyphenation for good line breaks e.g. (Please don’t force the lines to be even shorter – use small margins in phone layouts!). Larger formats on the other hand mean larger reading distance. Thus they call for larger font sizes, longer lines, more line spacing, larger margins. Small text sizes require fonts with rather wide proportions, a large x-height and open apertures. Larger fonts can get lighter in weight, more detailed, contrasted, and more tightly spaced.

To cut a long story short – what I want to say is, that there are many more important setscrews that have to be concerted and that determine good typography and optimal readability than just the stroke weight of a typeface. The text column has to look harmonious, with legible letterforms and good spacing, achieved by a rhythmical pattern of black strokes and the white space inbetween, with evenly rendered stems, well attuned word spaces and line spacing.

I would want to choose a typeface and settings that generally ensure this. Possible minor differences in font weight from one device to another don’t matter much to me, as long as the thing in a whole can be read comfortably. But maybe us print designers, who had to deal with different papers, printing methods and dot gains all our lives, have just idly learned to come to terms with it. Colour and the contrast of the screen are much more crucial. All the finetuned optimization are at risk to get screwed up by a user who has his crisp retina display set to full brightness. And that cannot be responded to.


Font-Shopping Continues

In case someone actually still wants to buy fonts this year I better hurry up with my report. Alright, what more did I buy?


Okay Type:
They (Jackson and his cat) have some really super fonts in the making, but only Alright Sans is ready for licensing yet. I had kept track of this interesting amalgam of a sans for quite some time already as it gets mentioned almost every day on typophile. Not purely humanist in style and proportions it combines open forms with the regularities of a classic grotesque and daring slanted a’s and g’s as alts in the italic. Makes me think of good ol’ Syntax and the Ideal Italic again.
Due to my (meanwhile) mission to get as many different families as possible, I just boughts five single weights at MyFonts because one can only get the whole family on Okay Type’s website. (Why?)

Now while I was there I did what probably everybody does at MyFonts from time to time—getting a couple of free fonts. Not many of them are suitable for professional design work, but in my opinion the typefaces by Jos Buivenga are. I got some complementary styles to the free version of Calluna, a versatile text face (and since Christmas joined by a sans to become a super-family) plus the flamboyant conceptional experiment that is Geotica—a high-contrast Didone only built up of geometric elements. The different fills, swashes and ornaments make it an exciting display venture.


The Asset:
All those typefaces hopefully complement the ones I got earlier this year:

Eames Century Gothic* Modern: I just had to order immediately, it simply is the impersonation of Erik van Blokland. One can dive deep into the individual shapes for days, the display styles make instant logos (beware, not allowed in basic license), the ornaments and numeral fonts are a playful plus. So enjoyable.

Hard to avoid the typefoundry Bold Monday this year, especially Nitty, which is surprisingly comfortable to type text in and Panno by Pieter van Rosmalen. I started out with the friendly priced sampler and got the full family of Paul van der Laan’s humanist sans Flex later.

Half way through my shopping spree Commercial Type, or rather Christian Schwartz announced the release of Neue Haas Grotesk to be near. Halleluja! Ever since working on the Helvetica Forever project I wished for that to happen. (We actually wanted to type-set the book in this newly digitized version back in 2007, but somehow either it wasn’t ready by that time or they didn’t manage to sort out the legal issues, so we ended up with Neue Helvetica.) I have no idea whether I’d ever use neue Neue Haas Grotesk, it’s just so tempting to get and be it only to show the world how Helvetica was meant to look like. But—maybe later.

Because all of a sudden the tide was turning: the notice of some unexpected debits abrupty shrunk my font-budget by almost 50% (now ~1500 €). But there was still so much left in my FontShop, A2 and MyFonts Carts :/
So these, among others, are typefaces I unfortunately had to skip (I should make a shortlist of nearly-bought fonts at some point):

Freight Micro, Text and Display I’m in love with this extensive super family by Joshua Darden/Garage Fonts for quite some time now. Especially the Micro (Italic) styles have great display qualities, too, although originally designed for extra small text.

Hercules, a quirky Modern/Scotch by František Štorm and also his
Farao, a playful take on the Clarendon genre. I like most of his typefaces although you realise some similarities after a while (the a’s e.g. are typical), but that is the case with other great type designers, too, like Gerard Unger or Fred Smeijers (his g’s and ß’s).

Lavigne got postponed as well, a dulcet text face by Ramiro Espinoza with great ampersand and complementing display styles for even more lavish demeanor.

Relato by Eduardo Manso attracted me with its distinct cursive. The rather low-contrast makes it a designated book face suitable for long-distance reading.

Iowan Old Style by John Downer, a calm, no-fuss text typeface, quite atypical for him actually.

Grot 10 from newly formed foundry A2. I especially like the true italics, which are still rather unusual for an “old-style” grotesque. There have been a lot of these kind of revivals popping up lately, like Plan by Typotheque, Fakt from Ourtype, Embarcadero by Mark van Bronkhorst or the recently expanded Founders Grotesque from Klim, to mention a few. Type expert Stephen Coles even names 2010 the year of the Helvetica replacements.

On that note, let me put you off until the third and final installment with some more shopping-occurrences, my final receipt and conclusion.

Font Shopping (Part I)

Last week I found myself faced with the rare and luxurious task to spend quite some money, quickly, and on something typography related.
I guess I’m not alone with this end-of-year-business-expence problem, so instead of a list with cool things in type 2010 I want to share my shopping experiences here.

As kind of a warm-up I ordered a couple of books and studio-material — easy — followed by some software, but I figured investing in fonts would be a lot less age sensitive and a more sustainable way to spend the remaining rest of this non-recurring source of capital. But what to pick?
I have a good overview and dialog with German and neighbouring European foundries, the classic Adobe Font Folio and ancient URW collection but what was kind of missing were the more independent anglo-american contributions of the past years.


So I started my stroll — at Font Bureau. I love them for their varied collection of part vernacular, part sophisticated typefaces, a lot with display styles available, and webfonts of course (but better avoid the “wacky” section).
My cart filled quickly, felt a bit like the old game »Ich packe meinen Koffer und nehme mit …«:

Amplitude: Because I fell in love with the triangular opening at the base of the a. A big fat wide compressed family presumably suitable for almost everything. Not too gruff, yet not too friendly (I got a bit tired of all those numerous humanist sans recently).

Farnham Text + Display: The a again, it won me over ever since I first saw it. I’m into baroque, Baskerville-ish typefaces for quite a while now and Farnham is a very amicable interpretation of the theme. I buy my daily Frankfurter Rundschau just because of this.

Giza: Yeah! Who can resist Nine Five? Now to find the right occasion to use and not only look at it.

Ibis Text + Display: “Very small and very big” are probably the best applications for Ibis. It resembles the feel of Zapf’s Melior and other squarish, almost-slab-seriffed 1950s typefaces I like a lot. Didn’t use it up to now, but Ibis does an amazing job as a webfont, especially on windows. Bold italic!

Meno: An irresistable cursive, like a bacchanal exaggeration of Galliard. Probably tricky to typeset but I definitely want to take the challenge and spend some time with her one day.

Miller Text + Display: Hard to go wrong with Miller, one of my all-time favourites. A versatile workhorse for tons of text with crispy, sexy display styles. Yum!

Prensa: As an admirer of Dwiggins one simply has to love Prensa (and Delicato and Enigma). Edgy, hardheaded, yet very legible and with great display qualities, too. Once again: bold italic!

Skilt Gothic: A better replica, derived from 1920s Danish signage lettering, this new release is a good alternative to DIN or when you want to say “industrial and undesigned”. Cool g and y, both one- and two-storey a’s and lots of other OT goodies (yeah, still rare but finally pro/premium OpenType arrived at Font Bureau, too).

Titling Gothic: Incredible, huge Grotesque families are FB’s specialty, so choosing a sans and picking styles from their ample palette was extra hard. I went for Titling Gothic because it somehow stands in the middle between the eccentric Bureau Grot and the more sane Benton Sans and Franklin. I would have liked Boomer Sans, too, but that sounded difficult to license.

Trilby: Well, what to do with Trilby, posters probably. It’s just so damn cool.

Whitman: I have to admit, it’s not my favourite but it seemed an expedient investment. Maybe it’s the a (again, they are my acid test), or that it is so perfectly balanced, but Whitman is a good alternative for Joanna, often described as a difficult diva. Or Scala.

Zocalo Text + Display: It definitely is the a! Freakish italics, cantilevered serifs in the caps, very readable in text, quirky at display sizes, simply a joy to look at.

I didn’t select all those typefaces at once. But after putting like 10 fonts in the cart I noticed a significant drop in price, even though I didn’t get the full families but only individual weights. From 40$ in the beginning the price per font decreased to 35, 30 and finally 25$ only. That’s awesome! And dangerous.
From then on I was lost. I forced myself to take a break, shopped at some other manufacturers and wholesalers and decided to fill my parked FB-cart with as many fonts as possible at the end of my trip.


Stop 2: Hoefler & Frere-Jones
They make very good, downright perfect typefaces, no doubt. I like them, really. But somehow everybody loves HFJ and regard them as the authority in quality fonts — it doesn’t make me want to use their typefaces so much anymore. Everybody else is using them already.


Stop 3: Process Type
Right on time the nasty* guys at Process Type announced a 25%-off christmas sale. Not easy to keep me from buying something with a wallet so loosely in my pocket. I got Locator, a versatile, uncluttered Sans with cool Q, J and l (a bit like in Neuzeit) and freaky Maple because I couldn’t resist the g and e, r and a are so cheerful in bigger sizes.


As mentioned earlier I mainly roamed through the collection of the smaller independent foundries and I have to admit “evil”* MyFonts came in really handy during my expedition. I’d rather spend my money directly on the foundry’s site but it can get quite tedious to look up all of them individually, creating an account, providing payment info etc. So I lazily filled my cart at this central market place. Besides MyFonts’ search, mark, save, rate, tag and easy-use test-facilities are just super practical (plus some foundries don’t even sell their fonts on their sites).

While browsing some “new-and-noteables” I went astray and came across an ancient all-time-favourite of mine — and simply melted away confronted with its light italic: Bitstream’s Schadow by Georg Trump, one of my favourite designers anyway. Look at the g!


End of day 1. To be continued with some okay type, more hands-on shopping experiences, my in- and out-takes, reciept and conclusion.


Who is Gando?

Anyone in need of a topic for a typeface revival?

Today in the mail: a type card by Eckehart SchumacherGebler featuring a rare Didone (together with a real one, the Pierre Didot by himself and Vibert).

The Roman and Italic were acquired by Offizin Haag-Drugulin of Leipzig in 1868 from the tradition-rich printer Tauchnitz, who, back then, liquidated their in-house type-foundry. They were kept under the name “Französische Schriften” (French Typefaces). In 1919 the matrices made their way to the D. Stempel foundry in Frankfurt, who renamed the typeface “Didot”. Just recently SchumacherGebler discovered that the face does not originate at Didot, but was cut by the Parisian punchcutter Nicholas Pierre Gando. Unfortunately it is not available anywhere.