US road signs ditch new font for old

image by CountyLemonade on Twitter

The Verge reports on changes to road signs in the USA:

Unless you’re a typography buff, you might not have noticed the new font that’s been popping up on highway signs over the past decade. It’s called Clearview and it’s been around since 2004. For much of its life, researchers (including its designer, Meeker & Associates) believed the font could provide for better legibility at night and at longer distances. But, it turns out, later research has not backed up this initial belief. It turns out that all that research suggesting the new font might be more legible was more due to the fact that older, worn signs were being replaced with nice, fresh, clean signs which were, naturally, more legible. Clearview also made legibility worse on signs with what’s called negative-contrast color orientations — dark letters on light backgrounds — like speed limit or yellow warning signs. As such, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) is killing off Clearview after 12 years, and all new highway signs again be labeled in Highway Gothic, the old standard font.

It’s funny, isn’t it, how simple things like roadsigns can make you feel at home, or far from it. When I visited Limerick in the Republic of Ireland about ten years ago, almost everything made me feel like I was still in the UK. The only thing that made me think ‘I’m in a foreign country’ were the road signs and road markings which were almost – but ever so slightly not – the same as in Britain.

And of course we always think our own approach to these things is the best. Which in the case of British roadsigns is, of course, entirely true…

Elderly crossing sign UK

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