What fonts go with Gill Sans and match up nicely? The truth is that there are probably thousands of fonts that would pair with Gill Sans just fine. The trouble is finding them and making something work really well. To find something that works and still have time left for designing, you are going to have to limit your choices. But to what?
Why not start with a limited set of classic typefaces? Based on some research I did, I have my own fairly-representative list of the most popular classic typefaces that I used in the Font Combinations App and The Big Book of Font Combinations. Let’s grab a few examples from the book.
Fonts that work with Gill Sans:
Gill Sans & Goudy Old Style
Here is a ready-made typeface pair. While I can’t say they were made for each other (Gill Sans was designed by Eric Gill in 1926 and Goudy Old Style was designed by Frederick W. Goudy in 1915—not too far apart) they come close. The generous and complimentary x-heights work well with their old-style roots. A close examination of Gill Sans reveals why they work so well: look at the lowercase “a”, “t”, and “r” for some quick visual insight into why Gill Sans works well with an old-style design like Goudy.
Gill Sans & American Typewriter
Sometimes, likely combinations are found in the most unlikely ways. When I was putting together the font combinations book, I had the opportunity to see a lot of typefaces on the same page that I would never, ever, have thought to put together. Kind of like cayenne pepper and dark chocolate. It’s reads wrong on the package, sounds wrong even suggest eating it, but when you take a bite (if you like spicy food and if you like chocolate), you have to step back in your mind and say, “Hey, that’s not too bad!” And so it is with these two typefaces. I think the playfulness of American Typewriter brings out the levity that is intrinsic to Gill Sans in the right setting. Gill Sans is the character actor of typefaces, is it not? Always odd, but somehow it works.
Yo, Font-Addict! Make sure to check out The Big Book of Font Combinations. Go grab a copy from Amazon or B&N and stare at all 350+ examples of informative font combinations for web and print. You know you want to!
Bell Gothic & Gill Sans
Here we have a classic example of where contrast between two typefaces can be made to work really well. Both typefaces are sans-serif but they share practically nothing else in common. While Gill Sans is a very quirky and thus dominant personality in most settings, the even more unique Bell Gothic tames the otherwise-wiley Gill Sans into a more submissive role. I think this font pairing is very energetic, and keeps the eye moving and dancing around the text. There is potential here to explore in a more specific context.
(Remember, all these examples are set generically, and need to be optimized in the context of a real design!)
Futura & Gill Sans
This is a case where two sans-serif fonts work pretty well together. Some of the more geometric shapes in Gill Sans compliment the classically geometric Futura. Also, the typefaces are different enough from each other that they don’t clash. They also have similar x-heights which helps create a sense of concord, or at least a friendly nod, between these two very distinct typefaces.
UPDATE: 3 more Gill Sans font pairings
I grabbed a few more samples via screen grab from the Font Combinations App. Without any further commentary on these choice I’ll let the type speak for itself:
Gill Sans & Palatino
Gill Sans & Chaparral
Gill Sans & Caslon
Is Gill Sans too versatile?
The versatility of Gill Sans and its unique personality can make finding a suitable typeface pair a challenge, but it’s doable. You might also want to check out a few articles below to help you with not only Gill Sans, but any other hard-to-pair typeface:
- Best Practices of Combining Typefaces at Smashing Magazine