Have you ever wondered why the United States has two highway sign fonts? Well, the reason has all to do with safety...
Standardised highway fonts are carefully designed and selected to make the sign as clearly readable as possible during day- and nighttime, whilst still keeping them as indestructible as possible.
Since 1948, the standard highway sign font was (surprise) Highway Gothic and, for the most part, this worked incredibly well. However, in the late 1980s, the California Department of Transportation put forward a new reflective coating for highway signs to aid in low light visibility. It was soon noted, though, that this reflective surface made the Highway Gothic font hard to see due to a reflective phenomenon called 'halation'. That is, the halo effect around the letters when a light is shone on it. The inner spacing of individual letters was far too close together in Highway Gothic for it to overcome this issue, so the next best solution would be to change the font entirely, which is exactly what happened.
In many highway signs, Highway Gothic would be replaced by a new font called Clearview. Across the 50 States, this new font would only be optional, or at least only implemented when signs needed to be replaced. This is exactly why we still see two fonts on highway signs across the United States.
Take a look at the video below by the YouTube channel, Vox, on Why the United States Has Two Highway Sign Fonts.
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