Seen some funny-looking highway signs?

If you've seen new signs going up on I-85 Business in Spartanburg, you may have noticed the new signs going up look a little different than others:


If you noticed it ... well, they're supposed to look different - and catch your eyes sooner as well. The new signs are the first of their kind in South Carolina using the "Clearview" font. Being in the highway construction business, as well as doing quite a bit of graphic design, this kind of stuff interests me.

Since the inception of the Interstate Highway system in the 1950s, signs on Interstates, as well as large-sized signage on non-Interstate highways and freeways, has used variations of what was known as the Highway Gothic font. Thrown into service without any research into visibility, it was used first on signs where die-cut lettering was tacked onto steel signs, and then other more modern methods of construction.

Research found the Clearview font is cleaner, neater, allows more space for lettering in signs because of the narrower width of the text, and is easier to read - especially for older drivers - than the existing Highway Gothic font. The use of signs with this font received initial approval by the Federal Highway Administration in 2004, which is responsible for setting and maintaining standards for such things, and has shown up in a number of states.

These photos to the right give you a chance to compare and see for yourself the difference between Highway Gothic and Clearview (it might've helped if the signs were both in good condition, but I've noticed the difference when good-condition signs are replaced).

The installation of new signs using this font was a first in South Carolina, but it probably won't be the last.

3 Response to "Seen some funny-looking highway signs?"

  1. on the way to columbia airport soon mg 31/7/09 10:58
    looks good
  2. Mike Reino 31/7/09 13:12
    Another improvement that you didn't mention was that it makes places even closer as well... How did they manage to make Hellertown and Bethlehem a whole mile closer than before?
  3. Earl Capps 1/8/09 01:59
    Mike, you've got me on that one. All I can guess is that it was more than one mile and less than two, and the prior design staff said "round up", but the new design staff said "round down".

    Or possibly the interchange was reconfigured after the original signs were put up, shortening the distance to the exit.

    Those things happen ... like when we get done with our I-26 project, the Remount Road exit, which is presently I-26 Exit 212-A, will become part of I-26 Exit 211 (Aviation Avenue). I-526, which is I-26 Exits 212 B-C will not be renumbered and 212-A will become a "ghost" exit number.

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