Gill Sans

Gill Sans is an unfussy, practical, trustworthy typeface, that was used on the covers of the first Penguin paperbacks. Below are some of my favourite modern uses of this classic typeface.

The Book of Nothing

by John D Barrow. Published by Vintage, 2002. Designed by Jamie Keenan.

A bold use of this venerable typeface, with the O’s filled, to represent the ‘nothing’ of the title. The three different colours used for the typeface look good against the black background.

Why I Write

by George Orwell. Published by Penguin, 2004. Designed by Alistair Hall.

This cover uses Gill Sans and a traditional designs to evoke the the early Penguin paperbacks.


Futura has a modern feel, despite being 80 years old, and is a classic example of a geometric sans serif typeface. It is a resilient type, that gives typographic book covers clean, elegant lettering, and an appearance of efficiency.


by Peter Carey. Published by Vintage, 2007. Designed by John Gall.

A cover which has immediate authority and grabs the readers attention. I like the way in which the typeface is given added emphasis by the use of the angled photograph of the canvas.

Nothing If Not Critical

by Robert Hughes. Published by Penguin, 1992. Designed by Chip Kidd.

This design also uses a photograph of a frame to give emphasis to the typeface, but this time there is an added visual twist – the frame is back to front.


Helvetica is a practical, all-purpose typeface, often used for signage and corporate branding. It has a feeling of impartiality, neutrality and freshness, whilst also conveying honesty and trust.

The Fuck-up

by Arthur Nersesian. Published by Pocket Books, 2000.

I like the way in which this official, morally upright typeface has been subverted in a bold way to wrap around this cover, in order to spell out a rude word!

The End

by Marq De Villiers. Published by Thomas Dunne Books, 2008. Designed by Jason Ramirez.

A bold use of Helvetica to announce a rather gloomy cover. A good use of colour and leading allows the typeface to have full reign across the page.


Nobel is a bold, shouty typeface that always demands attention when used on a cover.

The Next Hundred Million

by Joel Kotkin. Published by Penguin, 2010. Designed by Tal Goretsky.

I like the way that this bold typeface has been both supported and tempered slightly by framing the individual letters with a graphical device that represents an airport departure sign.

This Is Not Chick Lit

by Elizabeth Merrick. Published by Random House, 2006. Designed by Tamaye Perry.

Tamaye Perry’s design makes use of pink, a colour that is strongly associated with the ‘chick lit’genre, but matched to the very un-feminine Nobel typeface, which shouts it’s message to the reader.


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