Empirical Assessment of the Legibility of the Highway Gothic and Clearview Signage Fonts

Older drivers represent the fastest-growing segment of the driving population. Aging is associated with well-known declines in reaction time and visual processing, and, as such, future roadway infrastructure and related design considerations will need to accommodate this population. One potential area of concern is the legibility of highway signage. FHWA recently revoked an interim approval that allowed optional use of the Clearview typeface in place of the traditional Highway Gothic typeface for signage. The legibility of the two fonts was assessed with color combinations that maximized the contrast (positive or negative) or approximated a color configuration used in highway signage. Psychophysical techniques were used to establish thresholds for the time needed to decide accurately—under glancelike reading conditions—whether a string of letters was a word, as a proxy for legibility. These thresholds were lower for Clearview (indicating superior legibility) than for Highway Gothic across all conditions. Legibility thresholds were lowest for negative-contrast conditions and highest for positive-contrast conditions, with colored highway signs roughly between the two extremes. These thresholds also increased significantly across the age range studied. The method used to investigate the legibility of signage fonts adds methodological diversity to the literature along with evidence supporting the superior legibility of the Clearview font over Highway Gothic. The results do not suggest that the Clearview typeface is the optimal solution for all signage but they do indicate that additional scientific evaluations of signage legibility are warranted in different operating contexts.


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  • Accession Number: 01620167
  • Record Type: Publication
  • ISBN: 9780309441735
  • Report/Paper Numbers: 17-04920
  • Files: PRP, TRIS, TRB, ATRI
  • Created Date: Dec 29 2016 3:53PM