The Problem with Gill Sans

1've decided that as pretty as Gill Sans is, it’s not going to work. On rereading an older post in the new font, 1 noticed a major flaw in its design that makes it unsuitable for production use. 1f you’re reading this post in Gill Sans, you may want to switch your font to see what 1'm talking about. 1f you’re reading it in another font, doubtless you’ve already noticed the problem.

In the end, I’m afraid Gill Sans is just one more example of the preference to form over function. It would be so easy to create a one glyph that was clearly distinguishable from the I glyph, but I guess that simple and obvious solution offended some designer’s sense of aesthetics, legibility be damned. I’ll have to explore a few more fonts. Perhaps a basic Helvetica or Optima might be nice? Anyone know of a common Gill Sans derivative that distinguishes ones from I’s and zeroes from O’s?

7 Responses to “The Problem with Gill Sans”

  1. Colin Says:

    I never actually got Gill Sans to show up for your web page, since on my system W2K, the Font Folio postscript font is call GillSans (no space).

    Regardless I read the opening paragraph above without noticing at all the one character, since, like the majority of English readers, I read words, not characters.


  2. Leroy Says:

    Personally I find it pretty, but harder to read larger blocks of text. I guess I need those serifs to guide me.

  3. J Donald Says:

    Gill Sans is definitely not screen-friendly, either, in my opinion. And at point sizes smaller than 18 or so, the subtleties that make Gill Sans so cool are obscured. Best keep this as a print font (and British railway station signs :).

  4. Mike B Says:

    I don’t think Gill Sans is the only font with this problem. BTW, in the second paragraph of your post, the word “I’ll” looks pretty funny in whatever font my browser is using: all three letters look identical. (But the font in the text box I’m typing this comment uses a different font where the “I” and the “l” are different.)

  5. Mokka mit Schlag » Changing Fonts Says:

    […] I chose Garamond for the body text, but Vera Mono for the code. Good looking monospaced fonts are really hard to come by, especially for print as opposed to the screen. More than one author has simply given up and decided to go with a nearly-monospaced font instead. The code font here is just a boring Courier, but I think I’ll experiment with changing that to Vera Mono too, especially since in Bitstream Vera (unlike Gill Sans) it is possible to distinguish an l from a 1. […]

  6. Wouter van Vliet Says:

    I read your post on an Ubuntu machine, found it while looking for a Gill-like font on Linux. You do have a point, though I don’t think it will eventually pose any problem. It’s not very often one could write a 1 (one) in a line where it could be confused for a I (capital i).

    But still, it might not be very readable for longer texts. I’ve found that it works fine though for titles – while having Arial as body text.

    On the topic of how I found the post; does anybody know a substitute for this font on Linux?

  7. Dizwell Says:

    In belated answer to Wouter van Vliet, can I point him in the direction of ?

    There are several ways of getting Gill Sans onto Linux, some rather more legitimate than others.

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