Why the US has two different highway fonts

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Published on 30 Apr 2021, 12:00
The typefaces on highway signs, deconstructed.

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When you head out on the highway in the United States, you’re probably paying attention to the signs above your car and on the side of the road — the ones that direct you to your destination. If you’re looking for an exit or a rest stop, chances are you’ll see the typeface Highway Gothic. It became the highway standard in the 1950s, born out of an initiative from the California Department of Transportation to develop a clearer and more flexible standard for highway signs.

But for the past decade, a new typeface has been trying to take its place: Clearview. This new typeface boasts wider spaces inside of letters and less chunky letterforms, and tries to solve some of Highway Gothic’s readability issues. Learn more in the video above.

More from typeface designer Tobias Frere-Jones, who designed the typeface Interstate as an homage to Highway Gothic:

More information on how the FHWA decided to grant Clearview an interim approval:

More on research behind Clearview’s legibility:

More on the differences between Highway Gothic and Clearview:

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