Wednesday, January 27, 2016

A story only Roads Scholars will care about

Roads Scholaring if poo.

Did you notice over the past few years that the typeface on the big green freeway signs is different? In 2004, the federal government ordered states to stop using the old font called Highway Gothic that was developed circa 1948 and switch to a new font called Clearview. In many states, newer signs now use Clearview, while older signs still use the stencil-like Highway Gothic.

Clearview developers published a detailed document touting their invention and tried to show that it improved legibility for America's irreversibly graying motorists. But many Roads Scholars thunk otherwise and said it was less legible.

Perhaps it was because of misuse. In some jurisdictions, it wasn't just large green mixed-case signs that were changed to Clearview but also some all-capital signs and those with dark letters on a light background. But some Roads Scholars thought Clearview looked too beedledicky even without such misuse.

Now federal highway officials have scrapped their 2004 fiat and told states to switch back to Highway Gothic. They say more recent research shows Highway Gothic is better after all, especially for dark-on-light signs. They also say that the reason the Clearview signs appeared more legible 12 years ago is that they were new signs with fresh reflective sheeting or paint being tested against old, worn-out Highway Gothic signs.

But we Roads Scholars have a thirst for nostalgia. Surely, some Roads Scholars 50 years from now will be seeking out remaining Clearview signs and viewing them the way today's Scholars go spoony over yellow stop signs or cutout route markers.

Just be thankful the feds didn't make us use a serif font on our road signs!