The day I got back from TypeCon, maybe two minutes after I stumbled into the office, a coworker asked, “What’s the font that’s used on highway signs?”
Um . . . Um . . . “I should know this, but I don’t.”
I’d like to blame jet lag—I’d just arrived on a red-eye and had maybe four hours of broken sleep since the day before—but honestly, I just had no idea. All I knew was that it wasn’t Interstate.
Fortunately, today a freshly minted reporter done schooled me through the New York Times Magazine:
Clearview [is] the typeface that is poised to replace Highway Gothic, the standard that has been used on signs across the country for more than a half-century.
. . .
In 1956, President Dwight D. Eisenhower announced his goal of an expanded Interstate System, and highway engineers worked quickly to fashion a rough alphabet by rounding off the square edges of the block lettering created during die-cut sign making. Today, there are six Highway Gothic typefaces in the official Federal Highway Administration series. Most prevalent on the modern highway is the fifth typeface in the family, Series E-Modified, and it is with this that Clearview is most often directly compared.
. . .
Meeker and Montalbano staged a demonstration a few weeks later at the Penn State test track, spending a few thousand dollars of their own money to print up highway signs with the new version of Clearview. They invited representatives from the Federal Highway Administration and transportation officials from half a dozen states. The group stood on the tarmac and stared at a side-by-side comparison of Clearview and Highway Gothic. “Signs that you’d be hard pressed to read at 700 feet were legible at 900 or 1,000 feet,” Montalbano said. “People were really freaked out.”
Go read it: “The Road to Clarity.”
(Via Daring Fireball)