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If you’re coming into town on the Baltimore-Washington Parkway, there’s an overhead road sign marking the split between U.S. 50 East/Anacostia Freeway and U.S. 50 West/New York Avenue maybe a quarter-mile before the split. The problem is that the westbound sign reads “TO NEW YORK AVE.” in absolutely tiny type, much smaller than the rest of the sign. You can’t read it until you’re within a few dozen yards of the sign, and it’s like, what’s the point? New York Avenue should be listed on the sign, but why not make it readable—put it in the same type size as the rest of the sign? Absolutely maddening!
Rest assured, a new sign that depicts “To New York Ave.” the same size as the rest of the sign is coming soon, perhaps as soon as today.
The previous sign’s small typeface may have been a manufacturer’s mistake, according to National Park Service (NPS) spokesperson Bill Line, but it’s unclear exactly when the Park Service, which oversees the parkway, installed the sign.
But don’t think that the reason for the change is your complaints, according to Line. Instead, it is part of two-year-old effort by the Park Service to standardize the fonts on all NPS signs.
The new font, NPS Rawlinson, should make signs more legible than the previous NPS fonts—Clarendon and Highway Gothic—according to the March/April NPS newsletter. And the font promises to provide a “functional advantage of improved legibility [that] set them apart visually from the more common typeface varieties found on typical office computers. This distinctiveness, when applied across the many forms of media used by the NPS, contributed subtly but effectively to the team’s overall goal to ‘establish a unique organizational identity that could be expressed through the full range of communication materials used by the National Park Service.’”
Every Monday, the ‘Huh?’ Bub takes your questions. Got one?