Granby (typeface)

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Granby in medium weight on a specimen sheet.

Granby is a sans-serif typeface designed and released by the Stephenson Blake type foundry of Sheffield from 1930.[1][2]

Granby is influenced by a contemporary British sans-serif design, the Johnston typeface or Railway Alphabet (1916), the proprietary face of what became London Underground.[3] Roy Millington's history of Stephenson Blake also cites Futura as an influence.[4]

Like both Johnston and Gill Sans, Granby has an upper-case influenced by Roman square capitals and a lower-case inspired by traditional "old-style" serif letters, making it an example of what is now called the humanist style of sans-serif fonts.[5] Granby’s regular style is a robust design bolder than conventional body text fonts, making it suitable for headings and posters and also for legible text at smaller sizes.

Stephenson Blake had prepared type for the Johnston project and Granby is almost identical in many ways, more like Johnston than Gill Sans with diamond-shaped dots (tittles) on the 'i' and 'j' and a wide ‘a’.[6][7] A difference is its ‘g’, a ‘single-storey’ design influenced by handwriting. According to Mike Ashworth of Transport for London, London Transport itself made some use of Granby by the 1960s due to the limited availability of Johnston type.[8]

Granby Elephant compared to Monotype's Gill Kayo, also called Gill Sans Ultra Bold.

Several styles of Granby were released to extend the design, including condensed weights, an inlined style[9] and 'Granby Elephant', an ultra-bold design.[10] As with many sans-serifs, rather than a true italic, an oblique was offered, in which the letters were slanted but not altered to take on more handwriting influences.

While never as popular as Gill Sans on the commercial market, Granby nonetheless remained in use with revivals in phototypesetting and digital versions.[6] A digitisation of some weights is sold by Elsner+Flake and Scangraphic; Red Rooster Fonts has also digitised the Elephant style.[10][11][12] It was appropriately used in adverts by the London company Granby Cycles in the 1930s.[13]

Wayfarer, by Jeremy Tankard, is a loose revival of the condensed style, commissioned by Sheffield City Council as their corporate font based on its local heritage.[3][14][15] (It also has some influences of Stephenson Blake's well-known Grotesque series.) Jeremy Mickel's Specter is a loose adaptation with the inline version drawn by Douglas Hayes; Mickel commented "While Granby shares the classical proportions and friendly lowercase of Johnston and Gill, it has none of the calligraphic influence. Granby is inconsistent and at times clumsy, but it has an undeniable charm in its simple construction."[16] Dieter Hofrichter's Halifax is also in the same style.[17]


  1. ^ Coles, Stephen. "Questioning Gill Sans". Typographica. Retrieved 18 December 2015.
  2. ^ "Sense of Place". Eye magazine. Retrieved 31 July 2016.
  3. ^ a b Tankard, Jeremy. "Commissions: Connect Sheffield". Jeremy Tankard Typography. Retrieved 31 July 2016.
  4. ^ Millington, Roy (2002). Stephenson Blake: The Last of the Old English Typefounders. Oak Knoll Press. pp. 170–175. ISBN 1-58456-086-X.
  5. ^ Tracy, Walter (January 2003). Letters of Credit: A View of Type Design. D.R. Godine. pp. 87–98. ISBN 978-1-56792-240-0.
  6. ^ a b Archer, Ben. "Eric Gill got it wrong; a re-evaluation of Gill Sans". Typotheque. Retrieved 7 January 2011.
  7. ^ Howes, Justin (2000). Johnston's Underground Type. Harrow Weald, Middlesex: Capital Transport. pp. 73–78. ISBN 1-85414-231-3.
  8. ^ Ashworth, Mike. "Stephenson Blake of Sheffield, "Granby" typeface page from catalogue, c1960". Flickr. Retrieved 31 July 2016.
  9. ^ Coles, Stephen. "Granby Inlined". Flickr. Retrieved 2 April 2018. Granby Inlined is an odd duck. The inline does some unusual criss-crossing (B, E, G, T) which can be novel and interesting, but the bowl-to-stem joints (b, d, g, o, q) are quite clumsy. I have yet to see this one in use, except by Catherine Dixon [who] wisely sticks to the caps.
  10. ^ a b Jackaman, Steve; Muir, Ashley. "Granby Elephant RRF". MyFonts. Red Rooster Fonts. Retrieved 15 February 2016.
  11. ^ "EF Granby". MyFonts. Elsner+Flake. Retrieved 31 July 2016.
  12. ^ "Granby SB". MyFonts. Scangraphic. Retrieved 31 July 2016.
  13. ^ "Granby Cycles advertisements". Fonts In Use.
  14. ^ Bramley, Ellie Violet. "Subliminal power of city fonts". The Guardian. Retrieved 31 July 2016.
  15. ^ Tankard, Jeremy. "Wayfarer". Jeremy Tankard Typography. Retrieved 31 July 2016. Application of the original Granby Condensed type was, however, difficult practically. It was not available in digital form, and felt to be just too condensed, with the proportion of ascender to x-height, too uncomfortable for use on the signing project. So there arose an opportunity to design a new typeface and at the same time tailor it to the specific needs of the Sheffield project.
  16. ^ Mickel, Jeremy. "News: Specter". MKML. Retrieved 18 August 2018.
  17. ^ "Halifax". MyFonts. Hoftype. Retrieved 31 July 2016.

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