Joanna (typeface)

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Monotype Joanna
Category Serif
Designer(s) Eric Gill
Foundry Monotype

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."

In designing Joanna, Gill took inspiration from the types of Robert Granjon (1513–1589). The underlying armature of both the roman and italics bear strong similarities with Granjon's type, yet the spare, sharp squared serifs and moderate contrast of strokes, have a 20th-century modernist feeling, reminiscent of slab serifs. The italics are more vertical than Granjon's with only a 3° slope. Similarities can be seen with Gill's earlier typefaces Cockerel, Perpetua and Solus, for example in the lack of serif on the top left of the 'a'.[2]

The typeface was originally designed for proprietary use by Gill's printing shop Hague & Gill. The type was first produced in a small quantity by the Caslon Foundry for hand composition. It was eventually licensed for public release by the Monotype foundry. It was first shown in the Monotype Recorder in 1958 to commemorate an exhibition on his work. Once released widely, prominent users included the Penguin Modern Classics series in their classic blue-grey covers of the 1960s.[3]

Like several Monotype typefaces digitised in the early digital era, the digital release (shown right) 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.[4][5][6] Monotype have worked on developing a more effective digitisation named Joanna Nova, but this remains unreleased.[7]

One of the typefaces most influenced by Joanna is FF Scala, designed in 1990 by the Dutch type designer Martin Majoor (born 1960) is similar in its geometric simplicity combined with the old style letterform.[8] Joanna is the corporate typeface of the United States' Department of Homeland Security, while Scala is used on its seal.[9][10]


  1. ^ "An Essay on Typography". David R. Godine, Publisher. Retrieved 21 April 2015. 
  2. ^ Bates, Keith. "The Non Solus Story". K-Type. Retrieved 21 July 2015. 
  3. ^ Hardwig, Florian. "Brave New World 1965 Penguin edition". Fonts In Use. Retrieved 20 September 2015. 
  4. ^ Thomson, Mark. "Visions of Joanna". Eye Magazine. Retrieved 7 July 2015. 
  5. ^ Matteson, Steve. "Type Q&A: Steve Matteson from Monotype". Monotype. Retrieved 4 July 2015. 
  6. ^ Kobayashi, Akira. "Akira Kobayashi on FF Clifford". FontFeed. Retrieved 1 July 2015. 
  7. ^ "Beatrice Warde Scholarship (see bottom of poster)". TDC. Retrieved 12 July 2015. 
  8. ^ My type design philosophy by Martin Majoor
  9. ^ "Seal and Signature usage guidelines" (PDF). DHS. US government. Retrieved 7 July 2015. 
  10. ^ 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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