Saturday, 30 January 2016

acuity or my way or the highway

Typefaces are important, especially in public-works, and establish a corporate and even a national identity and much unseen thought goes into font design. The iconic typeface of German licence plates, called unromantically DIN 1451, was created to balance visibility with difficulty in altering one’s plates, a J cannot be turned to an I or a 3 into a B.
Moreover signage on roadways has to meet up to exacting uniformity and expected standards. The recent decision of the US government, as Quartz reports, to decommission the use of an artisanal typeface adopted more than a decade ago to return to a previously used one—called “Highway Gothic,” has gotten some quite upset with the bureaucracy. Though the change is being officially spurred by older drivers and poorer legibility from a distance, advocates for the welfare cues embedded in design are seeing this decision as quite a setback. I wonder if it’s the visual acuity of driverless carriages that’s driving this change, like the illerate move on British roadways a few years ago that was an assault on punctuation.