Franklin Gothic

Font      /fänt/
Noun: a complete assortment of type of one style and size.

When we use a font, have you ever thought about the emotions that it carries along with it? Let us give some examples, when we use Comic Sans, we feel like it’s time for fun and games. It’s informal and kiddy. With Times New Roman, it brings about a sense of responsibility and formality. With Symbol…. WE DON’T UNDERSTAND!

So how about Franklin Gothic? What was the purpose of it’s creation and what is it supposed to be used for?

Let’s start with a little history class, shall we?

The famous Franklin Gothic font was created by Morris Fuller Benton for American Type Founders (ATF) in 1902. It is a realist sans-serif font (Gothic was a term for sans-serif) and is considered the “patriarch of all modern American gothic typefaces”. The original purpose for its design was for newspapers (headlines and body copy) and where space is limited.

Named in honor of prolific American printer Benjamin Franklin, the arguably most widely-used font in the world is often the typeface du jour for advertisers and publishers. Franklin Gothic is used for any and all headline and body copy when there is a need for smooth power and simple authority. That is why it is frequently utilized in ads and print media.

Franklin Gothic is one of those classic typefaces. Much like Helvetica, it is a font that allows quick and crystal clear understanding due to its high legibility. While Helvetica is about the empty space between the lines, Franklin Gothic is all about the lines themselves. Slim cut and neat, it allows for economy of space while maintaining the aesthetic value of the type.

Typeface used on The Dark Knight poster artwork

Franklin Gothic is similar to Helvetica in the sense that they are fonts you can’t explain away their use because they’re just there. They have been in our lives for so long that we have gotten so used to them that we don’t even question why. And because of their clean, uniform lines, it is a neutral font. It can look corporate, fun, cheeky, intimidating, sad or whatever tone you want it to be because it’s a font that is moulded by its copy and how it sits on a page. In a nutshell, Franklin Gothic is a classic font that will withstand time and trends due to its high legibility, convenient economy of space and simple aesthetic quality.


Ideals in use

Loesje (Literature on education and the arts), an international organization in Arnhern (Netherlands) uses the Franklin Gothic typeface on its posters to promote the idea of democracy. Loesje’s ideal is based on creativity, positive criticism, philosophical thoughts on current affairs and events. Franklin Gothic as a realist font helps to communicate Loesje’s democratic ideals in a concise and straightforward manner. It paints reality in the exact way as reality would present itself.

The texts are given a sense of modern simplicity using the Franklin Gothic typeface. The Franklin Gothic typeface enhances the statement in Loesje’s posters as it helps to ensure that the value of democracy remain relevant and significant to reality’s context.

This poster describes freedom of speech in a whimsical manner utilizes the neutrality of Franklin Gothic typeface. Due to the typeface’s clean and uniform lines, the poster is able to present the idea of free speech in a cheeky yet significant tone.

From the example given above, we feel that Franklin Gothic plays on the ideal of realism as suggested by its origin to the realist sans-serif font. Its usage in newspapers, advertisements, publishers and even television programmes shows the need for clear, concise and direct communication without losing power and authority.

Uses and Adaptations of Franklin Gothic

The PBS series, The Electric Company uses Franklin Gothic as its resident type face for the content they churn out for children on television.

Above shows the Franklin Gothic typeface in the directory wall of the museum of modern art.

The metal set of Franklin Gothic in the museum of modern art’s department of graphic design.

Above is an example of using typeface for advertising in the music industry. Franklin Gothic Typeface is used for Lady Gaga’s album cover “The Fame Monster”.

Franklin Gothic typeface being used for advertising purposes in movies such as “Rocky Balboa”.

The conservative party of Canada uses the Franklin Gothic typeface in its logo.

Corporate Usage

New York University

New York University standardizes its font to Franklin Gothic for all web communications. It became the official primary typeface for all of NYU’s written assignments. The design of this type-face is highly perceptible and it enhances legibility for advertising, packaging and headlines. It clearly shows that New York University expects its students to stay current, standardized and neat in their online media interactions. The choice of this particular typeface speaks highly of this reputable university and its emphasis on objectivity and generality.

The Electric Company

Above is an example of the Electric Company (an educational television series catered to children), using Franklin Gothic as a typeface to educate the younger generation.

In our opinion, this typeface purports the ideal of realism as it helps to educate the audience in a straightforward and down to earth manner. It presents content, such as the simple spelling of the noun “Tea” in a smooth, legible manner, whereby the younger audience can easily grasp and understand. The usage of Franklin Gothic gives the Electric Company a certain extent of basic authority and smooth power as it proves to be one of the most viewed educational children television series in America.

Bank of America

The Bank of America logo is also designed using the Franklin Gothic typeface.

The usage of this pure and simple typeface suggests that the bank is prudent, cost-saving and simple in its ideals. Franklin Gothic puts emphasis on down-to-earth practicality and simplicity.

The use of Franklin Gothic in the logo gives us the vibe that  “it is a mere bank that values customers from different classes, it harbours no ulterior motives, it is just the way it is to the naked eye”. We are convinced that the font portray the Bank of America in a credible and honest manner without losing any sense of pride and authority.

Time Magazine

After 40 years of use, Franklin Gothic is Time magazine, and if you bring back other typefaces that were use for headlines in time magazine, it would definitely not resonate the feel of Time.

There are many offshoots to the original Franklin Gothic type. Many of which are adaptations of the original Franklin Gothic typeface which are handrawn, or as inspiration that evolved into an entirely new typeface. Some of these  can be found in advertorials or even magazine covers. An example of this would be on a February issue of Time magazine this year, shown below.

Time magazine, 27th February 2012

The treatment for this cover’s lettering got its inspiration from communists propaganda posters, while maintaining some of the general features of Franklin Gothic which has always been an icon on the covers of Time magazine.


Starbucks is another big name that adapted the Franklin Gothic type.

The starbucks logo was done in the pre-computer era. Inspired by Franklin Gothic, the lettering was hand drawn and customized to better suit the circular logo.

Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)

Another example would be with the Museum of Modern Art. It has one of the most renowned logotype of any cultural institution. The Franklin Gothic no. 2 logotype, an adaptation of the original Franklin Gothic typeface became a brand name with the museum.

WIth the success of their branding, MoMA redrew a new custom typeface called the MoMA Gothic which gained it’s roots from the original Franklin Gothic typeface.

The museum of modern art in New York has been using Franklin Gothic as its official typeface ever since the 1930s. It has been the primary influence for all of their materials and even their logo as shown below.

The museum of modern art employs the use of the Franklin Gothic Typeface in one of its 1930s wall label.

Overall, we feel that Franklin Gothic has played a significant role in evolution of typefaces which probably led to the creation of Helvetica which proceeded on to revolutionized the advertising and typeface design industry.


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