The Helvetica of Britain
Gill Sans has been called ‘the Helvetica of Britain’ – while not quite as ubiquitous as its Swiss counterpart, its inherent ‘Britishness’ is only heightened by the fact that it has been adopted by a number of very British institutions including the BBC, the Church of England, the Royal Society of the Arts, Penguin Books and Network Rail. There’s even a (not especially funny) in-joke knocking around on the subject:
Q: How do you do British postwar design? A: Set it in Gill Sans and print it in British Racing Green.
The use of Gill Sans for the logo and signage of the Sixties ad agency Stirling Cooper in the HBO series Mad Men was brought into question by Minnesota-based type designer Mark Simonson:
“The way the type is used – metal dimensional letters, generously spaced – looks right. The problem is that Gill was a British typeface not widely available or popular in the U.S. until the 1970s.
It’s a decade ahead of its time in American type fashions.”