That was the total mileage that we drove when going to Magnolia Springs, AL for my sister-in-law’s wedding and back to Holly Springs, NC. Aside from there being some “rules” that were set (not by me, mind you – no music, stopping every two hours, etc), I had a LOT of time on my hands.
Now – I’m not sure you guys would notice, but being a visual person, I noticed a difference in the fonts used on highway road signs from state to state. Fascinating, right? Yeah – I know – no need to say anything. :)
So it made me want to do some research on this, and if there was a font used – what it was, and why the change?
In my searching I stumbled upon this article by Joshua Yaffa of the New York Times. Yes, it was written a LONG time ago (2007), but it’s still interesting. The picture to the right is by Don Meeker and shows the difference between what was and what will be.
The font series that is currently used, but slowly being phased out, is called FHWA Series fonts, which is fondly, but not officially known as Highway Gothic. It’s a series of seven fonts developed by the US Federal Highway Administration and originally published in 1945.
The fonts (A – F, with a modified E makes seven) are used around the world in its various versions. FHWA Series font A has been discontinued in the United States, as it was the narrowest of the seven and hard to read. Below is a sample (found on Wikipedia) of a few different fonts currently used in the United States. Look at Series B – Series A is narrower than that – so you can understand why it was discontinued state side (although it’s still used in countries like New Zealand, where they have some REALLY long names).
So this font was good and was used until 2004, when the Federal Highway Administration approved interim the use of the new font, Clearview by Don Meeker. Why develop a new font, when the other was working for the last 60+ years? Well – it had to do with the legibility when it was dark and the halo affect from the 3M tape used to make it reflective. When you make it reflective, it blooms, and what was crisp edging become almost indiscernible fuzzy clouds of letters (image to the right – from NYT slide show – What’s your sign?) Never thought of that while you were driving at night, did you? I know I didn’t.
The image to the left shows the comparison of the commonly used FHWA Series E-modified overlaying the comparable Clearview 5-W (from the same NYT slide show). There you can see the difference. The white is taller, and larger open spaces at font terminations and open spaces.
How cool is that??? Something as simple as a font used on highway road signs. Really, sometimes it doesn’t take much for me.
You should start to see this font being used as 20 states (as of 2007, so more than likely more than that now) will be using this font as they update/replace highway signage. Don’t be surprised to see this font popping up elsewhere in corporate marketing as this font has more applications than just high way signage.