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How Fonts Are Born

Here are some 80-year-old sketches for Gill Sans, one of the most recognizable fonts in the world. Baby typefaces are ADORABLE.

Posted on April 27, 2012, at 11:02 a.m. ET

These are some early letter sketches for Gill Sans, drafted between 1928 and 1933. (More photos are available at Eye Magazine's site.) These chunky letters went on to star in some of the most iconic logos and advertisements in history, not least of which is this:

These typefaces look different because the sketches were for a different member of the Gill Sans family — "Extra Heavy Condensed Titling," to be specific. But they share the same basic shape and structure.

Most major fonts were either designed before the computer age or based on a typeface that was. It's amazing when you really think about it: the lettering used in our computers in our mobile devices, in our books and magazine and ads and product labels, can more often than not trace its ancestry to some dead British or German guy's drafting desk.

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.