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Gotham (typeface)

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Designer(s)Tobias Frere-Jones
Jesse Ragan[2]
FoundryHoefler & Co.
Date released2000
VariationsGotham Rounded, Gotham Condensed, Gotham Narrow, Gotham X-Narrow, Gotham Bold

Gotham is a geometric sans-serif typeface family designed by American type designer Tobias Frere-Jones with Jesse Ragan and released through the Hoefler & Frere-Jones foundry from 2000. Gotham's letterforms were inspired by examples of architectural signs of the mid-twentieth century.[3][4][5] Gotham has a relatively broad design with a reasonably high x-height and wide apertures.[6]

Since creation, Gotham has been highly visible due to its appearance in many notable places.[7] This has included Barack Obama's 2008 presidential campaign, Michigan State University branding,[8] and the 2016 federal election campaign of the Australian Labor Party.[9] The font has also been used on the cornerstone of the One World Trade Center in New York. It is also the current font used in MPA title cards for film trailers in the U.S.

Developed for professional use, Gotham is an extremely large family, featuring four widths, eight weights, and separate designs for screen display and a rounded version. It is published by Hoefler & Co., the company of Frere-Jones' former business partner Jonathan Hoefler.[10] Companies that notably use the font are Taco Bell, Golf Galaxy, ABS-CBN Corporation (ABS-CBN Entertainment, ABS-CBN News, ABS-CBN Sports, the television network of the same name, and some subsidiaries such as Star Magic), The Cartoon Network, Inc. (Cartoon Network, Cartoon Network Productions, and Cartoon Network Studios), and formerly in the logos for Discovery, Inc. and ViacomCBS, currently Paramount Global.

Creation and style[edit]

The Gotham typeface was initially commissioned by GQ magazine, whose editors wanted to display a sans-serif with a "geometric structure" that would look "masculine, new, and fresh" for their magazine. GQ agreed that they needed something "that was going to be very fresh and very established to have a sort of credible voice to it," according to Hoefler.[11]

Frere-Jones' inspiration for the typeface came from time spent walking block-by-block through Manhattan with a camera to find source material,[12] and he based the font on the lettering seen in older buildings, especially the sign on the Eighth Avenue façade of the Port Authority Bus Terminal. "I suppose there's a hidden personal agenda in the design," Frere-Jones said, "to preserve those old pieces of New York that could be wiped out before they're appreciated. Having grown up here, I was always fond of the 'old' New York and its lettering."[12]

The lettering that inspired this typeface originated from the style of 1920s era sans-serifs like Futura, where "Type, like architecture, like the organization of society itself, was to be reduced to its bare, efficient essentials, rid of undesirable, local or ethnic elements." This theme was found frequently in Depression-era type in both North America and Europe, particularly Germany.[13] This simplification of type is characterized by Frere-Jones as "not the kind of letter a type designer would make. It's the kind of letter an engineer would make. It was born outside the type design in some other world and has a very distinct flavor from that."[11] Paul Shaw commented that the letterforms Gotham was based on "were geometric yet they did not look like Futura. Their widths were more uniform and less classical, bowls were larger".[5]

Reviews of Gotham focus on its identity as something both American and specific to New York City. According to David Dunlap of The New York Times, Gotham "deliberately evokes the blocky no-nonsense, unselfconscious architectural lettering that dominated the [New York] streetscape from the 1930s through the 1960s."[14] Andrew Romano of Newsweek concurs. "Unlike other sans serif typefaces, it's not German, it's not French, it's not Swiss," he said. "It's very American."[15]

According to Frere-Jones, Gotham wouldn't have happened without the GQ commission. "The humanist and the geometric ... had already been thoroughly staked out and developed by past designers. I didn't think anything new could have been found there, but luckily for me (and the client), I was mistaken."[12]

On the Freedom Tower[edit]

Gotham was prominently featured in 2004 as the typeface on the cornerstone for the Freedom Tower at the World Trade Center site, itself owned by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. In a Fourth of July speech at its unveiling, then-Governor George Pataki cited the cornerstone as the "bedrock of our state". The text is written in all-uppercase letters, which was criticized, as some wanted a mix of upper and lower-case to "give the words a human voice."[14]

In the Obama campaign[edit]

Gotham used by the 2008 Obama presidential campaign.

Early materials for the 2008 Obama campaign used the serif Perpetua. Later, however, upon hiring John Slabyk and Scott Thomas, the campaign made the change to Gotham, and the font was used on numerous signs and posters for the campaign.[16]

The International Herald Tribune praised the choice for its "potent, if unspoken, combination of contemporary sophistication (a nod to his suits) with nostalgia for America's past and a sense of duty."[17] John Berry, an author of books on typography, agreed: "It's funny to see it used in a political campaign because on the one hand it's almost too ordinary yet that's the point. It has the sense of trustworthiness because you've seen it everywhere."[18] Graphic designer Brian Collins noted that Gotham was the "linchpin" to Obama's entire campaign imagery.[19]

Observers of the primary and general elections compared Obama's design choices favorably to those made by his opponents. In her campaign, Hillary Clinton used New Baskerville, a serif used by book publishers, law firms and universities, while John McCain used Optima, the same font used for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.[17][20] It also has to be noticed that while the Obama campaign material still used the Perpetua typeface, the short-lived John Edwards campaign was already using Gotham Ultra.[21]

After Obama won the presidency, Gotham and similar typefaces found their way into various federal government projects, most notably the identity of the 2010 United States Census.

Notable examples[edit]

Gotham has found its way into other commercial media, as well. Coca-Cola, television shows Conan, Maury and Saturday Night Live, the Tribeca Film Festival, the Qwest advertisements, and the Georgia Governor's Office of Customer Service have all used Gotham in logos.[16] The Georgia state government cited Gotham's "clean, fresh lines" and variations that "offer a variety of options for use in all marketing, advertising and signage applications" as reason for its use.[22] Starbucks used the typeface in conjunction with the 2008 presidential election to advertise an offer of free coffee to people who vote.[23][24] The typographical logo of the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, designed by Landor Associates, features a style mixture of Gotham and Verlag, another H & FJ typeface.[25]

Frere-Jones said about the typeface when it was released in 2002:

With Gotham's origin—and my own stubborn opinions—I think that anywhere in the suburban sprawl would be the worst place for it: advertising for featureless subdivisions, the specials board at the Exit 23 Dairy Queen, bumper stickers that say 'I [heart] my SUV' and so on.[12]

The third logo of American mass media and entertainment company The Cartoon Network, Inc. (CNI) and the television channel of the same name use the Gotham typeface since the second prototype for its third logo in early 2010. Gotham then became the company's primary typeface when the 2010 logo started to be officially used one month later after its unveiling on May 29, 2010 which replaced the 2004 logo. Eagle Bold, however, is still used by the company nowadays on some uses such as on merchandising and as a production logo. Gotham is also used on the logos of CNI's divisions such as the company's global distribution arm Cartoon Network Productions since September 6, 2010, and Cartoon Network Studios since May 21, 2013.

Gotham was also the font of the Eurovision Song Contest from 2013 to 2022, and since 2015, the font has been used in the generic logo of the contest.[26][27][28]

Philippine media conglomerate ABS-CBN Corporation, the television network of the same name, conglomerate's divisions such as ABS-CBN Entertainment, ABS-CBN News, ABS-CBN Sports, and ABS-CBN Foundation use the Gotham typeface since September 9, 2013 as one of the main fonts along with Azo Sans starting on a variation of ABS-CBN Entertainment (later ABS-CBN Studios from 2024) logo in 2021, with the Rotis typeface continued to be used on the ABS-CBN text as the modified version of the said font. It was first used as the company's secondary typeface when its soon-to-be 2014 logo originally launched as secondary logo as part of 60th anniversary of the namesake television network on the said date of September 2013 and then became the primary typeface when the 2014 ABS-CBN logo now became the primary logo on January 1, 2014.[29][30] It is notably used on logos of Kapamilya Channel (launched on 13 June 2020) and A2Z Channel 11 (launched on 6 October 2020).

MediaQuest's One Network Media Group (consisting of Cignal-exclusive cable channels One News, One PH, One Sports+ and their free-to-air counterpart One Sports, and One Screen) are also using Gotham in their logos.

On 30 May 2014, Twitter announced, "Starting today, we're rolling out a new font on twitter.com, moving from Helvetica Neue to Gotham".[31] The change was reverted on 3 September 2014.[32]

Gotham is the official font of New York University,[33] Michigan State University,[34] Rowan University,[35] the Singapore University of Technology and Design,[36] and was the primary brand typeface of the University of Waterloo and remains in use in logos and signage in conjunction with newly introduced brand typefaces.[37]

Gotham was also the font used by Netflix, until 2018 when to reduce expenses in licensing fees, Netflix created its own bespoke font, Netflix Sans.[38]

Gotham was used as the main font of Roblox since February 2019, formerly using Source Sans Pro. Since 2022, Gotham began being used on the Roblox logo, as well as on some title pages. Since April 2024, the font has been replaced by Builder Sans, a font created by Roblox. It is was also able to be used as a font within Roblox Studio. Since May 28 2024, the font has been removed and replaced with Montserrat.

Gotham was the font family used by most government agencies in the Australian state of New South Wales until 2021 when it changed to Public Sans.[39]

WWE has been using Gotham of their annual Royal Rumble event every year since 2017. They also used it on other occasions too, like WrestleMania 32.

Since October 23, 2009, Telkom Indonesia uses the Gotham Rounded for the primary use (in its logo) and Gotham Regular as the secondary font for its corporate communications use.[40]

Gotham was featured frequently throughout the 2003 live-action Universal film Dr. Seuss’ The Cat in the Hat.


Gotham originally was introduced with an oblique as well as a range of widths.[4] In 2007, a Rounded variant was introduced due to a commission from Print magazine.[41] In 2009, Hoefler and Frere-Jones introduced new Narrow and Extra Narrow versions.[42] On April 4, 2011, Hoefler and Frere-Jones announced that they had created a new wordmark based on Gotham with serifs for the use of President Barack Obama's 2012 campaign. In announcing the news they wrote: "Can We Add Serifs to Gotham? For the President of The United States? Yes We Can."[43] The design was not released publicly.

Cyrillic and Greek characters were added in an April 2015 update.[44][45][46] By this time Frere-Jones had left the company; Fonts in Use reports Malou Verlomme and Sara Soskolne as having cooperated on the additional alphabets.[47]


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  2. ^ "Gotham: Overview". Hoefler Type Foundry (archived). Archived from the original on 7 February 2003. Retrieved 14 September 2019.
  3. ^ "An American Vernacular". Hoefler Type Foundry (archived). Archived from the original on 2 February 2003. Retrieved 14 September 2019.
  4. ^ a b "Gotham:History". Hoefler & Frere-Jones. Retrieved 2009-01-25.
  5. ^ a b Shaw, Paul (2017). Revival Type: Digital Typefaces Inspired by the Past. Yale University Press. pp. 222–3. ISBN 978-0-300-21929-6.
  6. ^ Berry, John (7 April 2003). "Type Off The Wall". Creative Pro. Retrieved 28 September 2019.
  7. ^ Hawley, Rachel. "How this one font took over the world". The Outline. Retrieved 28 September 2019.
  8. ^ University, Michigan State. "The MSU Brand - Design and Visual Identity". brand.msu.edu. Retrieved 2019-11-24.
  9. ^ Butterick, Matthew. "Typography 2020: A Special Listicle for America". Practical Typography. Retrieved 28 September 2019.
  10. ^ Covey, Jacob. "Gotham". Hilobrow. Retrieved 14 September 2019.
  11. ^ a b Hustwit, Gary (2 February 2008). "A Font You Can Believe In". HelveticaFilm.com. Archived from the original on 5 September 2012. Retrieved 2009-01-21.
  12. ^ a b c d Siegel, Dimitri (8 August 2002). "Is Gotham the New Interstate?". The Morning News. Retrieved 2009-01-21.
  13. ^ Werner, Paul T. (16 July 2004). "Freedom Tower Type". AIGA Journal of Design. Archived from the original on 2008-10-12. Retrieved 2009-01-21.
  14. ^ a b Dunlap, David (8 July 2004). "9/11 Cornerstone, Chiseled With a New York Accent". New York Times. Retrieved 2009-01-21.
  15. ^ Romano, Andrew (27 February 2008). "Expertinent: Why the Obama "Brand" Is Working". Newsweek. Archived from the original on 4 February 2009. Retrieved 2009-01-21.
  16. ^ a b Doctor, Eric (7 November 2008). "Campaign messages marked by typography". The Rice Thresher. Archived from the original on 22 January 2009. Retrieved 2009-01-21.
  17. ^ a b Rawsthorn, Alice (6 April 2008). "Brand Obama, a leader in the image war". International Herald Tribune. Retrieved 2011-02-19.
  18. ^ Tschorn, Adam (2 April 2008). "The Character Issue". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2009-01-21.
  19. ^ Heller, Steven (2 April 2008). "To the Letter Born". New York Times. Retrieved 2009-01-21.
  20. ^ "...and Non-Fontogenic..." Hoefler & Frere-Jones. 21 February 2008. Retrieved 2009-01-21.
  21. ^ "A Change We Made". Hoefler & Frere-Jones. 4 January 2008. Retrieved 2009-01-21.
  22. ^ "Governor's Office of Customer Service Brand Standards Manual" (PDF). Georgia Governor's Office of Customer Service. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2010-05-27. Retrieved 2009-01-21.
  23. ^ Neale, McDavitt Van Fleet (3 November 2008). "Starbucks Using Gotham Typeface to Endorse Obama?". Archived from the original on 5 January 2009. Retrieved 2009-01-21.
  24. ^ "If you vote, Starbucks buys your coffee". YouTube. Archived from the original on 2008-11-06. Retrieved 2009-01-25.
  25. ^ Dunlap, David W. (2011-11-18). "Can't Place the Name, but the Typeface Is Familiar". The New York Times.
  26. ^ "Malmö 2013: We are one". Eurovision.tv. Archived from the original on 2016-06-09. Retrieved 2017-02-01.
  27. ^ "Presenting: Theme Art of Eurovision 2014". Eurovision.tv. Archived from the original on 2016-06-08. Retrieved 2017-02-01.
  28. ^ "Eurovision 2015 theme artwork is here!". Eurovision.tv. Archived from the original on 2016-05-05. Retrieved 2017-02-01.
  29. ^ "Company History, About ABS-CBN Corporation". ABS-CBN Corporation. Retrieved 2019-09-01.
  30. ^ Kwento ng Kasiyahan : The Grand Kapamilya Weekend. YouTube. ABS-CBN Entertainment. September 9, 2013. Retrieved September 9, 2023.
  31. ^ "Tweet from @support (now @TwitterSupport)". Twitter. 30 May 2014. Retrieved 12 July 2018.
  32. ^ Kastrenakes, Jacob (2014-09-03). "Twitter changes font again because everyone hated the old one". The Verge. Retrieved 2022-03-13.
  33. ^ "Style & Tone". New York University.
  34. ^ "Visual".
  35. ^ "Brand Standards" (PDF). Rowan University.
  36. ^ "Communications Guide". Root: SUTD Student Government. Archived from the original on 2018-03-08. Retrieved 2018-03-08.
  37. ^ UnderConsideration. "Brand New: Follow-Up: University of Waterloo". www.underconsideration.com. Retrieved 2019-03-17.
  38. ^ "Netflix has its own custom font now, just like Apple, Samsung, and Google". 21 March 2018.
  39. ^ "Typography | Digital.NSW".
  40. ^ "Telkom Indonesia Brand Guidelines".
  41. ^ "Gotham Rounded: Corners Cut by Popular Demand". Typographica. 10 January 2007. Retrieved 2009-01-21.
  42. ^ "THE NEW GOTHAMS: 46 New Fonts from H&FJ". Hoefler & Frere-Jones. 20 January 2009. Retrieved 2009-01-25.
  43. ^ Hoefler, Jonathan. "Can We Add Serifs to Gotham?". H&FJ News. Retrieved 14 April 2011.
  44. ^ "What's New in Gotham". Hoefler & Co. Retrieved 14 September 2019.
  45. ^ Soskolne, Sara (11 December 2015). "An H&Co Double Bill with Sara Soskolne". Vimeo. Retrieved 14 September 2019.
  46. ^ Soskolne, Sara. "Sara Soskolne – Gotham's newest inhabitants: adventures in pan-European typography". YouTube. Archived from the original on 2021-12-19. Retrieved 14 September 2019.
  47. ^ "Gotham". Fonts in Use. Retrieved 28 September 2019.

Further reading[edit]

  • Macmillan, Neil. An A–Z of Type Designers. Yale University Press: 2006. ISBN 0-300-11151-7.

External links[edit]