Government Reverses Its Course on Highway Fonts
Highway signs will soon get a new look—or an old one, depending on your perspective. According to CityLab, the U.S. Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) recently announced they will change fonts from Clearview—a typeface designed to improve legibility for drivers—to Highway Gothic, a font that was developed in the 1940s and used on road signs until 2004.So far, so good. Who could argue with making road signs easier to read, especially for old farts with failing vision, like yours truly.
... Highway Gothic was problematic for aging drivers with poor eyes, since its letters turned into a bright blur from the reflection of headlights at night. In contrast, Clearview was less tightly spaced, and mixed lowercase and uppercase styles. Designers thought this would help people see sign lettering better in the dark and from long distances.
Initial studies suggested that Clearview was easier for drivers to read, and in 2004 around 30 states chose the font for their own signs when the FHWA gave them the option to switch.Ah, but the plot thickens...
Now, according to CityLab, the FHWA says that research shows that Clearview actually makes it harder to read signs ... the reason Clearview might have seemed easier to read was simply because the new font meant that older, worn-down signs were being replaced with fresh ones.Ten years and who knows how many taxpayer dollars to figure out that new signs are easier to read than old, faded ones.
The FHWA stopped approving Clearview at least two years ago. In the meantime, signs with Clearview lettering won’t be taken down, but as they age they will be replaced with Highway Gothic signs.Here's the difference.
|Click to embiggen.|
Only a government agency could spend a decade, along with tons of cash, on something as trivial as this.