A fellow typographer has created a great series of postcards that show the subliminal messages sent out when using different typefaces.
However, I was intrigued by the choice of subliminal message for Gill Sans: I am the son of a stonecutter. This is surprising, not least because there are so many things you could hold up against Eric Gill that being a son of a stonecutter is a bit of a cop out, but mainly because to many Gill Sans cries out “I am English”.
The typeface has a long history of being used for organizations that have a national prominence or by companies that are uniquely identified as having British heritage. From the LNER to the Ministry of Information, from Jan Tschichold’s iconic designs for Penguin to the BBC.
It was this heritage that we experimented using when we started the design phase of Metrotwin, the social utility for Nylonistas. One of the first ideas we discussed was signposting the different cities through colour and type:
The choice of Gill Sans for London was clearly cut, as was the choice of Helvetica Medium for New York. Used (in a roundabout route) by Massimo Veignelli and Bob Noorda for their signage plan for the NYC subway system, it’s now a ubiquitous part of the city’s identity, found on virtually every street corner.
Our colour choice was also to be found on every corner: yellow for New York cabs and black for London taxis. (We also had a secondary palette which didn’t get developed which used red British telephone boxes and blue American post boxes.)
In the end, we decided that the 2 colours (especially when reinforced by images of taxis as on the Metrotwin home page) had such a strong meaning that having city specific fonts was over kill.
However, it’s undoubtedly true that both colours and fonts have the power to create associations and send out messages of their own accord. Which reminds me, with Obama surging ahead in the polls there’s a really obvious one that Lars left out: