Safe at Any Speed?
You might be shocked to learn that the Federal font for highways gets bloated easily. That’s right, the typeface used on roads across the nation, widely called “Highway Gothic” (its real name is FHWA E-modified), clutters signs fast when there are too many words, besides getting blurry in headlights at night. This is a particularly hard on elderly drivers, which the baby boomers will be soon. But it took 15 years for a team including a graphic designer, a typeface designer, and “human factors engineers” to come up with a replacement font that would solve FHWA’s problems, without making highway signs bigger in the process. How they did it—by opening up the interstices of problematic lowercase letters, for one thing— is explained in a fascinating post from the Cooper-Hewitt on the result, which recently became the first digital font in its collection. So while the national design museum has adopted ClearviewHwy®, so far fewer than half the nation’s states have. It’s enough to drive us to distraction.