Type and Social Context (Eric Gill's "Gill Sans")

I just read a long ass post about why graphic artists shouldn't stretch type or slant a face. "no duh" as we used to say in school.

It's pretty rare when you can pull off a stretched face, and it's usually with a small amount of compression. Apple used a slightly compressed Garamond as its corporate font for years. Gill Sans Italic looks nice slightly compressed too. Which brings me to the topic of this too-long essay.

The Gill Sans family is my favorite face. Gill Sans MT at a normal book size is one of the best of the popular fonts, imnsho. So, I started to do some research into this guy, Eric Gill, and what I learned has made me feel uncomfortable about the typeface.

The guy is a sicko. He had sex with his teenage daughter. I think he had sex with his sister. That stuff just makes me queasy and feel disgust.

What's worse is that a whole lot of people, especially those people selling some of his artwork, or graphics people who really like the font, just excuse or elide this aspect of the artist. "Oh, he had some unusual sexual proclivities," or "attitudes were different in his time." Please. The guy was mentally ill, at least by our standards today, and probably by 1930s standards too. I know sexual abuse and rape were more tolerated, but I don't think they were more accepted by the victims. His priest was OK with his behavior, apparently, but imnsho that doesn't mean much.

I don't think his problems were unresolvable in his day, either. Sigmund Freud was already well known in the 1930s.

Great art doesn't excuse the artist. The artist lives in society and makes social decisions.

The Nazis had great graphics, but they were an evil political malevolence. Leni Riefenstahl was a great film propagandist, but for evil purposes. D.W. Griffith invented modern cinema, but he was a racist and basically a White Power fascist. (And for the computer geeks, consider Hans Reiser and his awesome Reiser FS - the guy was a murderer.)

Eric Gill was a pervert.

This fact makes it difficult, for me, to use his font. (The same as I wanted to stop using Reiser FS after the murder.) I would rather use something derivative of Gill Sans, that doesn't include his name, and help relegate him to the shadows of history.