Thursday, April 28, 2016

Feds Rescind Permission to Use "Clearer" Font for Highway Signs

Readability, especially at high speeds, long distances and varying road conditions, can make the difference between life and death on America's highways. So there was a lot of enthusiasm and excitement for the new Clearview font in 2004, after tests proved it to be easier to read than the current Highway Gothic on freeway signs.

But after recent research showed the new font to be no better or possibly worse for readability on actual road signs,  the Federal Highway Authority rescinded its approval for use on any new signs. States that rushed to adopt Clearview are confused and a little miffed...

Hunter Communications Original News Source:
WIRED

Link to Article:
America's Highway Fonts Got More Drama Than The Bachelor

Excerpt: "Typefaces are rarely heralded as groundbreaking, but in 2004, Clearview seemed to be exactly that. Meeker began working on it 1991, after noticing what he calls the 'crummy' state of highway signs in Oregon. 'Why do all highway signs have to be so cluttered and difficult to read,' he says he wondered. So, with transportation researchers at Penn State University and with funding from 3M, Meeker and his team started exploring how to improve the the Highway Administration’s Standard Highway Alphabet, the design originally developed in 1945 and, again, known colloquially as Highway Gothic. Meeker wanted something more legible, especially for America’s older drivers.

 Like Highway Gothic, there’s a simplicity to Clearview that makes it ideal for ushering drivers along the highway at high speeds. Both typefaces are similar to Transport, a highway road sign typeface British designers Jock Kinneir and Margaret Calvert developed in 1958. Clearview’s biggest difference is in the interstices of its letters: Meeker and his colleagues opened them up, so that the eyes of letters like b, e, and a are bigger. They made lowercase letters a little taller, and gave some letters longer tails. The goal was to give the letters more definition, because road sign letters—especially white ones—can appear fuzzy when illuminated by headlight beams.
In 1997, Penn State researchers subjected Clearview to a range of legibility tests. The results were unambiguously positive, showing that Clearview increased nighttime reading distance by as much as 16 percent. In 2001, a team led by Texas A&M transportation researcher Paul Carlson independently confirmed that Clearview improved the recognition distance of highway signs by as much as 12 percent, a difference of 74 feet over Highway Gothic...

 But the Highway Administration granted Clearview provisional approval, pending further investigation. The studies out of Penn State and Texas A&M had demonstrated Clearview’s improved legibility on positive contrast signs—for instance, those with white letters on a green background. It wasn’t clear how Clearview would perform on signs of negative contrast—that is, signs with black letters on a yellow, orange, or white background. In 2006, a followup study at Texas A&M found that Clearview offered no significant benefit over Highway Gothic in such cases. In fact, nighttime recognition tests found that replacing Clearview actually decreased the distance at which people could read negative-contrast highway signs."


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