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What way, found?

Notes on signing, wayfinding, alphabets and recognition.

When you are lost, where do you go, what do you do?

You can, metaphorically, look for a sign. That might help. Or you can look at a map. They are the same thing. A sign is a map. A map is, in fact, a grouping of signs, arranged to help you get somewhere.

A friend of mine, a signing designer and place making expert were talking about this issue — are directories really necessary? Can one direct people to the experience of place in the hope of simply letting them find their way? Perhaps so — but there are some circumstances that require clear attention. There are two of them, first off — roads and highways, and the other labyrinth of driving signing experience, the garage.

Don Meeker is a environmental graphic designer and James Montalbano, a type designer that have been exploring the use of fonts in design for visibility. And the founding basis of that original alphabet, the classic Highway Gothic. This font, while attractively oriented as a san serif treatment, has some curious eccentricities, like sliced finishes on some of the ascending character stems — an intriguing detail for designers. We designed an entire newspaper system with these fonts.

What way, found?

Creating, however, a font that replaces the current system took more than a decade for the Meeker team. More, to that new font – Clearview, here:

Highway Gothic & Clearview comparisons
What way, found?
What way, found?

Legibility analysis and comparative explorations
What way, found?
What way, found?
What way, found?
Photos by Don Meeker

The article that summarizes these explorations is here:

In our own work, we’ve explored signing garages — in this instance, Lincoln Square. And it’s pretty much always been about being direct — helping people figure out where they are, and where they are going.

What way, found?
What way, found?
What way, found?

But, all of this began, in my mind, with one set of images — one grouping of ideas — finding the way. Where are you, where are you going, how are you going to get there? And what might stretch the proposition for how that might be told?

What way, found?
What way, found?
What way, found?

What’s your take? How are you going to get there?

What way, found? (1)

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