Visual Organization + Communication Design
Gotham was inspired by the simple sans-serif typefaces seen on buildings and architectural signage in New York City. The designer Tobias Frere-Jones at Hoefler Type Foundry has long been interested in urban signage and lettering seen on buildings in New York City.
“We (Tobias Frere-Jones and Jonathan Hoefler) both grew up in the city and independently we’ve walked around the streets and earmarked pieces of lettering or signage that we thought would be a good seed, or starting point for a project somewhere down the line. And we both noticed the letting on the Port Authority Bus Terminal up on 42nd Street and 8th Avenue. The lettering over the front door is this very plain geometric letter, but its not the type of letter that a type designer would make. It’s the kind of letter an engineer would make. It was born outside of type design, in some other world and has a very distinct flavor from that.” -Tobias Frere-Jones, excerpt from the film Helvetica
Frere-Jones created Gotham in 2000 for a commission by GQ Magazine. Since then it has been used by everyone from the 2008 Obama campaign, to the cornerstone for the World Trade Center.
“Gotham is a bold geometric typeface, but Frere-Jones allowed it to “escape the grid wherever necessary, giving the design an affability usually missing from ‘geometric’ faces,” according to the H&FJ website… Gotham is wider than average typefaces, lending it gravity and solidity. It says, “What I’m saying is special enough to warrant the extra room I require.” Increased legibility comes from this and the large x-height.”
– Gotham Not Just the Obama Font