Gill Sans Shadows & Colours

Of course the recent Very British Types event was founded in part on last years’ series of public talks called Fonts@The Font, in which I asked the question ‘how does one do British typography?

wot is Brit typo

(with apologies to those expecting to actually read the Greek or Cyrillic). This of course was about typesetting with Gill Sans and detailed a couple of er, industrial techniques gained from my time in the publishing industry.

One of the things Mark Ovenden remarked on was the apparently recent expansion of the Gill Sans family in Gill Sans Nova to include the display variations, Gill Sans Titling, Shadow, Extra Bold Condensed etc ; but the shadow variants for GS have been with us all along – they existed in metal and were digitised in the ‘80s rush to convert the Monotype library to postscript type 1 format. So not all that nova at all really…
However, the fact that the shadow face can be converted to paths and its components coloured or tinted independently was something I had used last year for a local client.

In a splendid example of synchronicity, Mark subsequently hinted that there would be a requirement for some display typesetting featuring the variations of Gill Sans in a national context, and I decided to experiment further with that shadow style, beyond flat colours;

Britain tricolourSo far, so tricolour – a clash between the high street and the fairground, both jolly and deadly serious – and ‘very Sir Peter Blake’ if I say so myself.
But this kind of visual jingoism is something that troubles me very much, because it’s rooted in nostalgia. Post-brexit, the British visual identity (whatever that is or may be), appears all too likely to succumb to such simple, crowd-pleasing tricks. Maybe that’s its appeal?

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