CLOSE

Government Reverses Its Course on Highway Fonts

Highway signs will soon get a new look—or an old one, depending on your perspective. According to CityLab, the U.S. Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) recently announced they will change fonts from Clearview—a typeface designed to improve legibility for drivers—to Highway Gothic, a font that was developed in the 1940s and used on road signs until 2004.

Font nerds and transit geeks might be the only ones who notice the switch right away. However, traffic sign design reportedly makes a big difference when it comes to safety. WNYC writes that Highway Gothic was problematic for aging drivers with poor eyes, since its letters turned into a bright blur from the reflection of headlights at night. In contrast, Clearview was less tightly spaced, and mixed lowercase and uppercase styles. Designers thought this would help people see sign lettering better in the dark and from long distances.

Initial studies suggested that Clearview was easier for drivers to read, and in 2004 around 30 states chose the font for their own signs when the FHWA gave them the option to switch. Now, according to CityLab, the FHWA says that research shows that Clearview actually makes it harder to read signs with “negative-contrast color orientations, such as those with black letters on white or yellow backgrounds like Speed Limit and Warning signs." According to The Verge, the reason Clearview might have seemed easier to read was simply because the new font meant that older, worn-down signs were being replaced with fresh ones.

The FHWA stopped approving Clearview at least two years ago. In the meantime, signs with Clearview lettering won’t be taken down, but as they age they will be replaced with Highway Gothic signs. Curious about the difference between the two fonts? Learn a little more about their history in the video above, courtesy of The Hardest Year

[h/t WNYC]

arrow
History
The Secret World War II History Hidden in London's Fences

In South London, the remains of the UK’s World War II history are visible in an unlikely place—one that you might pass by regularly and never take a second look at. In a significant number of housing estates, the fences around the perimeter are actually upcycled medical stretchers from the war, as the design podcast 99% Invisible reports.

During the Blitz of 1940 and 1941, the UK’s Air Raid Precautions department worked to protect civilians from the bombings. The organization built 60,000 steel stretchers to carry injured people during attacks. The metal structures were designed to be easy to disinfect in case of a gas attack, but that design ended up making them perfect for reuse after the war.

Many London housing developments at the time had to remove their fences so that the metal could be used in the war effort, and once the war was over, they were looking to replace them. The London County Council came up with a solution that would benefit everyone: They repurposed the excess stretchers that the city no longer needed into residential railings.

You can tell a stretcher railing from a regular fence because of the curves in the poles at the top and bottom of the fence. They’re hand-holds, designed to make it easier to carry it.

Unfortunately, decades of being exposed to the elements have left some of these historic artifacts in poor shape, and some housing estates have removed them due to high levels of degradation. The Stretcher Railing Society is currently working to preserve these heritage pieces of London infrastructure.

As of right now, though, there are plenty of stretchers you can still find on the streets. If you're in the London area, this handy Google map shows where you can find the historic fencing.

[h/t 99% Invisible]

nextArticle.image_alt|e
TOBIAS SCHWARZ/AFP/Getty Images
arrow
This Just In
What Do You Get the Person Who Has Everything? Perhaps a German Village for Less Than $150,000
TOBIAS SCHWARZ/AFP/Getty Images
TOBIAS SCHWARZ/AFP/Getty Images

Looking for a gift for the world traveler who has everything? If cost isn't an issue and they're longing for a quiet country home, Fortune reports that an entire village in East Germany is up for sale. The tiny hamlet of Alwine, in Germany's Brandenburg region, is going up for auction on Saturday, December 9. Opening bids begin at $147,230.

Alwine has around one dozen buildings and 20 full-time residents, most of them elderly. It was once owned by a neighboring coal plant, which shut down in 1991, soon after East Germany reunited with West Germany. Many residents left after that. Between 1990 and 2015, the regional population fell by 15 percent, according to The Local.


TOBIAS SCHWARZ/AFP/Getty Images

In 2000, a private investor purchased the decaying hamlet for just one Deutsche Mark (the currency used before the euro). But its decline continued, and now it's up for grabs once more—this time around, for a much-higher price.

Andreas Claus, the mayor of the district surrounding Alwine, wasn't informed of the village's sale until he heard about it in the news, according to The Local. While no local residents plan to purchase their hometown, Claus says he's open to fostering dialogue with the buyer, with hopes of eventually revitalizing the local community.

[h/t Fortune]

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios