Thursday, February 9, 2012

Really crappy looking (and incorrect) street signs going up

Crappy font Look up: our new street signs look like crap.

A few weeks ago, I read in the Post that DC street signs would be getting a new font and would be written in title case, rather than upper case (that is, Fairmont Street rather than FAIRMONT STREET). They're also going to write the numbers as ordinal numbers, as in "14th Street" rather than the current "14 Street."

I've seen the font, which is part of new Federal standards, before on highway signs in other parts of the country, and always liked them. However, on some signs I spotted near the Georgia Ave-Petworth Metro, it looks really bad. I think the city got it wrong.

Check out the sign to the right for new Hampshire Ave and the one below for Georgia Ave. The New Hampshire sign uses three different sizes: the "ew" in New is bigger than "ampshire" in Hampshire. It shouldn't be that way, and it looks terrible.

Aside from that, more things are wrong. Compare the "G" in the sign for Georgia Ave to the sign below in Michigan using the font: they're not the same. And the lower case letters in the DC signs are way smaller than they should be: "eorgia" and "ampshire" are less than half as large as the upper case letters, while in the Michigan sign, they're more than 2/3 the size of the upper case letters. (In typeface lingo, upper case letters are called majuscule, and lower case are miniscule.) Furthermore, the quadrant is written as Nw, when it should be NW.

What's odd is that Mike DeBonis from the Post snapped a picture (bottom right) of new and old East Capitol Street NE signs on Capitol Hill, and everything looks correct. It appears that somebody messed up when they made these Georgia and New Hampshire signs.

Now I know street signs are a minor issue in the grand scheme of things, but man, do they look awful.

UPDATE: To be clear, I think this is the wrong font. The lower case g in Georgia is another example: compare it to Clearview, the font it's supposed to be.

Crappy font


  1. Looks fucking terrible. Typical decision making from people who know nothing about typography.

  2. What amazes me is the lack of consistency - if they all looked like the East Capitol sign, I think they'd be fine, but the New Hampshire and Georga signs look terrible. Around 8th Street SE (I think), the Virginia Avenue sign looks terrible too. I should've snapped a picture.

  3. I actually like kinda them. From a practical standpoint, moving from all caps to a mix of upper and lower makes them much more readable. From an aesthetic standpoint, it's nice to switch things up every once in a while and these look less like a sign someone made with a label maker from Staples.

  4. Well, in my opinion the font is nice in theory, but they didn't use it properly here -- wrong sizes, multiple sizes, and so on.

  5. ... and the wrong font in any case

  6. Sigh. Great in theory, horrible in practice.

  7. Maybe I missed something, but in the East Capitol Street picture, how come the old one is labeled SE and the new one is labeled NE? Did the NE/SE delineation shift or was this picture snapped in 2 different (but close) parts of East Capitol Street?

  8. Yeah, I think it's two different signs.

  9. 1300 East Capitol SE is right across the street from 1300 East Capitol NE. The signs are likely catercorner from each other.

  10. Oops, no, I correct myself: The two East Capitol signs have to be directly across from each other, at the 1300 block!

    I prefer the all caps signs, actually. The appearance is neat and clean, and easier for those who don't use our alphabet in their native languages.


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