Minh’s Notes

Human-readable chicken scratch

Minh Nguyễn
August 11th, 2007



The New York Times Magazine is running a story on Clearview, the typeface (font) that’s very slowly replacing “Highway Gothic” as the standard for U.S. highway signs:

What started as a project to organize information for tourist routes in Oregon would soon turn into an all-consuming quest, and one that marked the first time in the nation’s history that anyone attempted to apply systematically the principles of graphic design to the American highway.

The article takes an in-depth look at the steps it took to begin replacing the incumbent typeface, as well as what makes highway typefaces so important.

As a bit of a roadgeek myself, I’ve come to like the existing typeface. I know it’s cliché to say that a font has “personality”, but the way the ascenders on b’s, h’s, and l’s are lopped off at an angle certainly gives the typeface a crude look that blends in well with both urban and rural streetscapes. In contrast, the curled l’s of Clearview smack of Trebuchet MS, which is what I initially mistook it for, and the rest of this typeface smacks of suburbia in all its blandness. But I’ll be happy as long as Clearview’s presence dissuades states from using the 2000 revision of Highway Gothic, with its hideous clipped g-descender. (I’m looking at you, Georgia.)

And yes, I’m fully aware that this blog’s design ironically uses Trebuchet MS. What can I say: it was Movable Type’s default. I’ll do something about that soon.

Thanks to John Gruber for the scoop.