The major 20th century sans-serif types created by English designers fall under the category eventually labeled "humanist." The first of these English humanist sans types was based on letters designed by Edward Johnston (1872-1944) for the London Underground in 1916. Johnston's letters still appear on London subway signs.
Johnston's pupil, Eric Gill (1882-1940), who worked on the Underground letters, was commissioned by the Monotype Corporation to revise the design into a commercially available type. Gill Sans was released in the early 1930s and became phenomenally successful, particularly though not exclusively in England.
Gill Sans came to be promoted as an answer to the German sans-serifs like Futura. Like them, Gill's typeface had a stripped-down, contemporary feel, but it retained more connections to older forms in its proportions and details. In promoting Gill Sans, the English stressed the inhumanity and coldness of German type, and conversely the humanity, warmth and respect for tradition that was touted as distinctively English.