How to avoid the Gill Sans font controversy in Windows and Office

The work of Eric Gill is controversial these days, for good reason.  Microsoft Windows and Office have fonts based on Gill’s work so users might need to think twice about using Gill Sans and similar fonts.

Gill Sans MT and Gill Sans Nova are supplied with Windows and Office but are becoming stigmatized. Those fonts might not be an appropriate choice in the 21st Century and there are alternatives available.

Eric Gill controversy

Eric Gill was an English sculptor and designer who did sculptures that are still in public view today, most notably outside BBC Broadcasting House in London.

He also worked for Monotype as a font consultant, producing fonts such as Perpetua, Joanna and, named in his honor, Gill Sans.

Gill Sans has been a popular font since the 1920’s when it was used by one of London’s many railway companies and later British Railways. Penguin Books used it for their distinctive covers.  It’s sometimes called “the Helvetica of England” because of its widespread use.

Gill’s personal life was appalling.  His own diaries confirm sexual and incestuous abuse with his sisters, daughters and a dog.

That’s made Gill’s work increasingly problematic.  Both the BBC and now the Save the Children charity are dropping Gill Sans from their logo and design standards.  The statue made by Gill outside Broadcasting House has been attacked, literally.

The whole debate raises important questions about what’s now called “Cancel Culture”.  At what point does a creators work become unacceptable, even decades after their death?  What if the work has no obvious relation to their awful and illegal conduct?  What about works derived from the original?  Are spin-offs also off-limits?  In this case, would there be as much controversy if the font didn’t bear his name?

These are all good questions that reasonable people can debate and disagree on.  Office Watch isn’t the place for such a discussion, and we are hardly qualified to do so.

Our purpose is to alert our readers to a possible but avoidable difficulty, especially in publicly available work like brochures, signs and even PowerPoint slides.  There are other fonts that can replace Eric Gill fonts.

Eric Gill fonts in Windows and Office

Gill Sans font has been supplied with Windows for many years, since Windows XP as Gill Sans MT (MT for Monotype which licenses the font to Microsoft).

Gill Sans MT is a digitized version of the original Gill Sans font.

There’s also Gill Sans Nova which is available free to Windows 10/11 users via the Microsoft Store’s font collection.

Gill Sans Nova is an extension of the original Gill Sans font by George Ryan for Monotype.  It’s part of the “Eric Gill series” of fonts for Monotype.

Gill Sans alternatives

Perhaps you or your organization would like to drop Gill Sans and its derivatives out of “an overabundance of caution”?   That’s easy because there are plenty of similar font options.

Gill Sans is a sans-serif typeface in the humanist style and there are many similar fonts.  Here’s some alternatives to consider both in Windows/Office and available elsewhere.

In Windows and Office

Windows has Arial which can serve to replace Gill Sans.  On Apple devices, try Helvetica.

In modern Office, there are ‘cloud fonts’ which can be downloaded quickly. Look for the cloud plus arrow icon next to a font. 

Arial Nova and Avenir are available as cloud fonts and are viable Gill Sans alternatives.

Way down the bottom of the font selector is Univers, another Gill Sans replacement.

Google Fonts

Google Fonts can be downloaded and installed in Windows or Mac.  Two of those fonts stand out as Gill Sans alternatives.



Other free fonts

Two free fonts caught our eye as Gill Sans replacements, though there are many others.


London Tube

The original London Tube font Johnston was an inspiration for Gill Sans.  London Tube font is similar to Johnson.  Gill Sans has often been used because, until recently, Johnston was copyrighted.

Other Johnston similar fonts are Railway Sans and Paddington.

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