Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Road Signs, an Unnoticed Art Form

Although highly unnoticed, street signs are all part of the vast majority of design when driving or walking down the street. From big to small. and wide to tall, street signs are an everyday convenience that  make our lives a hell of a lot easier and go highly unnoticed. There simplistic use of typography and vectorized marks are a way to get the message across to the viewer as fast and easy as possible as well as help people navigate their everyday life.

There are many different typefaces used around the world for different street signs. Helvetica is used to navigate around New York city subway systems, where as Helvetica Neue is used for road signs in Hong Kong. Clarendon is the face used in our US National Park systems. Each face is used in a particular way to serve a specific function, readability. Some road signs used grid-based typefaces, some were extremely wide geometric typefaces with the simpler forms of a and g, some very thin, and some very heavy (Ralph Herman}." Part of the reasons these faces work so well is because of their unique style in being able to read them without hesitation. Although sometimes designed very poorly. These signs are created to be scene and read quick and easy so people can glance at them quickly and go on there way. They are designed to be read up close and from football fields away.  

With the flux of automobiles on the road and the rise of industrialization beginning in the 1920’s, adaptations had to be made to keep people safe and to be able to navigate while driving. Simplistic and minimalistic street signs and road markers were the answer. The rise of type faces and the idea of readability and clarity was a heightened point in design.  Swiss designers became obsessed with this idea of clean but elegant design. The design of the signs were sometimes very decorative with a decorative serif set on it but as time went by the design of these became more simplistic due to mass production. 

Antique Street signs seemed very peculiar and interesting because of the history and look of these signs. It seemed that the typeface would be pressed into some kind of metal or aluminum and the painted. I have always been fascinated with antiques and antique signs and lettering because of that antique quality. Signs were usually hand painted back in the day in which gave them so much more personality and style. Today signs are usually just set type on material mass-produced. Although the type-face on these signs may be elegant and clean the aesthetic quality is just not how signs used to be.

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