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We live in a world where every startup and its dog promises to change your life through design. The most important works of design, however, are the ones that many of us barely even think about. In this case, I’m talking about highway signs.

I don’t drive, but I used to be on the road a lot when I was a kid in Mexico. I practiced my Spanish pronunciation by reading off every sign out loud, much to my siblings’ dismay.

Beyond educating young children, highway signs are also responsible for helping drivers figure out where they want to go, and preventing accidents. In the United States of America, this has prompted an argument over typefaces.

As you might imagine, the importance of typography takes on a whole new meaning when people are driving down a highway in heavy metal machines. Drivers sometimes only have a split second to make decisions; if they can read a sign from farther away, they have an extra split second or two to react.

Highway Gothic (left), and Clearview (right).

The face