Magazine article Eye : The International Review of Graphic Design

The Way Ahead

Magazine article Eye : The International Review of Graphic Design

The Way Ahead

Article excerpt

Paul Stiff explains why the British road sign system simply works

Britain's road and motorway sign system once appeared in a long list for the 'Great British Design Quest', which asked TV viewers 'to choose their favourite example of British design from the past 100 years'. But it didn't get through to the shortlist. That would have needed someone to explain to voters why, if there were Nobel prizes for design, this would be a winner. Here are eight reasons.

1. Jock Kinneir and his assistant, Margaret Calvert, were the first professional designers of a national system of road traffic signs. Elsewhere it is still usual for this to be done by engineers and surveyors - and it shows. Kinneir's work, starting with the motorway system from 1957, was new. Existing signs did not meet standards of salience, conspicuity and discriminability, to support drivers' planning and execution of often safety-critical decisions - at speed, sometimes under adverse conditions.

2. Kinneir's proposals generated serious public debate in the professional and national press.

3. This led to some formal evaluation: the government's Road Research Laboratory tested which combination of letterforms - serif / sans serif; all capitals / capitals + small letters - could be read at the greatest distance, 'to keep the angle between the driver's line of sight to the sign, and the road ahead, as small as possible'. It concluded: 'Since there is little difference in legibility between the different types of lettering, it seems reasonable to make the choice on aesthetic grounds. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.