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Font War: Inside the Design World's $20 Million Divorce

Font War: Inside the Design World's $20 Million Divorce
Illustration by Steph Davidson

Gotham is one hell of a typeface. Its Os are round, its capital letters sturdy and square, and it has the simplicity of a geometric sans without feeling clinical. The inspiration for Gotham is the lettering on signs at the Port Authority, manly works using “the type of letter that an engineer would make,” according to Tobias Frere-Jones, who is widely credited with designing the font for GQ magazine in 2000. Critics have praised Gotham as blue collar, nostalgic yet “exquisitely contemporary,” and “simply self evident.”

It’s also ubiquitous. Gotham has appeared on Netflix envelopes, Coca-Cola cans, and in the Saturday Night Live logo. It was on display at the Museum of Modern Art from 2011 to 2012 and continues to be part of the museum’s permanent collection. It also helped elect a president: In 2008, Barack Obama’s team chose Gotham as the official typeface of the campaign and used it to spell out the word HOPE on its iconic posters.