Ralf Herrmann’s Typography Weblog has been running an occasional series of articles on the typefaces used in European traffic signs.
Traffic sign typefaces need to be legible under varying light conditions, from different distances, and at speed, a different set of usability standards from typefaces designed to be read on paper or a screen eighteen inches away in artifical light. As Ralf Herrmann notes in his recent article about French traffic signs:
The design of L1 and L2 are neither very good nor very bad. It’s a typical semi-geometric design similar to the traffic typefaces used in other European countries. A unique feature are the large counters of P and R. In general it is a good idea to have large counters for a typeface used for traffic signs, but a letter is also recognized by the white-space around it, so they might have overdone it a litte bit.
Blogs like Ralf Herrmann’s Typography Weblog, that aren’t afraid to delve into delightful arcana, make me smile. While I’m as guilty as the next person of putting up quick, referential posts (like the one you’re currently reading!), detailed articles that scoff at artificial word count limits are the real gems of the Internet.