Unless you're a typography buff, you might not have noticed the new font that's been popping up on highway signs over the past decade. It's called Clearview and it's been around since 2004. For much of its life, researchers (including its designer, Meeker & Associates) believed the font could provide for better legibility at night and at longer distances.
But, it turns out, later research has not backed up this initial belief. It turns out that all that research suggesting the new font might be more legible was more due to the fact that older, worn signs were being replaced with nice, fresh, clean signs which were, naturally, more legible.
Clearview also made legibility worse on signs with what's called negative-contrast color orientations — dark letters on light backgrounds — like speed limit or yellow warning signs. As such, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) is killing off Clearview after 12 years, and all new highway signs again be labeled in Highway Gothic, the old standard font.
"This is a good move by FHWA," said Colorado Department of Transportation spokesperson Amy Ford. It also lets highway departments avoid wasting "tax-payer dollars replacing signs with a font that didn't turn out to be as effective as it was thought it could be, so our system doesn't end up with a mixture of fonts, and allows researchers more time to continue to evaluate font effectiveness for driver legibility."
The FHWA said in a blog post that public safety is not compromised with Clearview on the roads, and that existing Clearview signs will be allowed to remain up until they are worn out. In the meantime, if you're missing Clearview don't worry too much. The font is used in a number of other areas, either for marketing or other purposes — perhaps the most commonly seen is in AT&T's marketing materials, which use a slightly modified version of the font named ClearviewATT.