Joanna (typeface)

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Category Serif
Classification Various; slab
Designer(s) Eric Gill
Foundry Monotype (general release)
Variations Joanna Nova
Joanna Sans

Joanna is a serif typeface designed by Eric Gill (1882–1940) in the period 1930–31, and named for one of his daughters. Gill chose Joanna for setting An Essay on Typography, a book by Gill on his thoughts on typography, typesetting, and page design.[1] He described it as "a book face free from all fancy business."[2]

In designing Joanna, Gill took inspiration from the types of Robert Granjon (1513–1589).[3] The underlying armature of both the roman and italics bear similarities with Granjon's type. However, the spare, sharp squared serifs and moderate contrast of strokes have a 20th-century modernist feeling, reminiscent of slab serifs but much lighter than most typefaces of this genre. Similarities can be seen with Gill's earlier typefaces Cockerel, Perpetua and in particular Solus, for example in the lack of serif on the top left of the 'a'.[4] The italics are more vertical than Granjon's with only a 3° slope: indeed, in the original cut Gill did not bother to have italic capitals created, simply using the upright ones.[5]


The typeface was originally designed for proprietary use by Gill's printing shop Hague & Gill, run with his son-in-law Rene Hague. The type was first produced in a small quantity by the Caslon Foundry for hand composition. Monotype then recut and reissued it for the sole use of publisher J. M. Dent. It was eventually licensed for public release by Monotype in 1958, after Gill's death, when J.M. Dent's exclusivity expired. It was first shown in the Monotype Recorder in 1958, accompanied by an exhibition on his work.[2] Once released widely, prominent users included the Penguin Modern Classics series in their classic blue-grey covers of the 1960s, before they switched to Helvetica.[6] The original metal type was Gill's property, and is now partly in the collection of the Clark Library in Los Angeles.[7][8]

Like several Monotype typefaces digitised in the early digital era, the original digital release (shown) has been criticised for being too light compared to the real thing, though this effect may be compensated for when printing on poor-quality paper into which ink tends to absorb and spread.[9][10][11] Monotype released in 2015 a more effective digitisation named Joanna Nova by Ben Jones.[12] Monotype accompanied it by a matching sans-serif design by Terrance Weinzierl, Joanna Sans Nova, intended to somewhat resemble Gill Sans but complement Joanna more closely, with a calligraphic italic not solely inspired by either.[13]

One of the typefaces most influenced by Joanna is FF Scala, designed in 1990 by the Dutch type designer Martin Majoor. It is similar in its geometric simplicity combined with the old style letterform.[14] Joanna is the corporate typeface of the United States' Department of Homeland Security, while Scala is used on its seal.[15][16]


  1. ^ "An Essay on Typography". David R. Godine, Publisher. Retrieved 21 April 2015. 
  2. ^ a b "Eric Gill: Monotype Recorder special issue" (PDF). Monotype Recorder 41 (3). 1958. Retrieved 6 November 2015. 
  3. ^ "Joanna (Adobe release)". MyFonts. Adobe. Retrieved 12 November 2015. 
  4. ^ Bates, Keith. "The Non Solus Story". K-Type. Retrieved 21 July 2015. 
  5. ^ Mosley, James (November 10, 2015). Lecture on Gill's work (Speech). 'Me & Mr Gill' talk. Old Truman Brewery, London. 
  6. ^ Hardwig, Florian. "Brave New World 1965 Penguin edition". Fonts In Use. Retrieved 20 September 2015. 
  7. ^ Aid for the Collection on Eric Gill, 1887–2003.
  8. ^ Morris, Sallie (November 6, 2015). Lecture on Gill's typefaces (Speech). 'Me & Mr Gill' talk. Old Truman Brewery, London. 
  9. ^ Thomson, Mark. "Visions of Joanna". Eye Magazine. Retrieved 7 July 2015. 
  10. ^ Matteson, Steve. "Type Q&A: Steve Matteson from Monotype". Monotype. Retrieved 4 July 2015. 
  11. ^ Kobayashi, Akira. "Akira Kobayashi on FF Clifford". FontFeed. Retrieved 1 July 2015. 
  12. ^ "Details for Joanna Nova font family at". Monotype GmbH. Retrieved 31 October 2015. 
  13. ^ Weinzierl, Terrance. "Joanna Sans Nova MT". MyFonts. Monotype. Retrieved 6 November 2015. 
  14. ^ My type design philosophy by Martin Majoor
  15. ^ "Seal and Signature usage guidelines" (PDF). DHS. US government. Retrieved 7 July 2015. 
  16. ^ Coles, Stephen. "Fonts in use: Scala". Fonts in Use. 
  • Bringhurst, Robert. The Elements of Typographic Style. Hartley & Marks: 1992. ISBN 0-88179-033-8.
  • Dodd, Robin. From Gutenberg to Open Type. Hartley & Marks: 2006. ISBN 0-88179-210-1.
  • Friedl, Frederich, Nicholas Ott and Bernard Stein. Typography: An Encyclopedic Survey of Type Design and Techniques Through History. Black Dog & Leventhal: 1998. ISBN 1-57912-023-7.
  • Kindserley, David. Mr. Eric Gill: Further Thoughts by an Apprentice. Cardozo Kindersley Editions: 1967, 1982. ISBN 0-9501946-5-4.

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