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Typography that saves lives


To many people, choosing a typeface or a font is simply a matter of picking something that looks good. As designers, we take that a step further and select type taking into consideration the tone, implied messages and brand representation it evokes in each piece. Consider this though, what if your font choice could save lives each and every day?

That’s exactly what happened with Don Meeker and James Montalbano, designers who have created a new font for the US Highway System. Profiled in this NY Times article, their creation called Clearview was researched and developed to be readable at great distances and high speeds, both critical for highway signage. It is still being tested, but has shown great promise in being much more legible than the current typeface, Highway Gothic. That enhanced legibility leads to drivers having more time to react to signs, which ultimately makes the roads safer for everyone.

The amount of research and development that went into this typeface is staggering. Meticulously crafting each letter, carefully considering adjacent letter’s visual relationship to each other, and almost endlessly tweaking the set has resulted in a design that Michael Pietrucha, professor of highway engineering, thinks will “completely change the look of the American highway, but not so much that anyone will notice.” That subtle.

It’s exciting to see such high profile examples of typography and its importance. More than just a pretty face, well-planned and well set typography can be a powerful tool in any piece.

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