Thursday, February 7, 2008

Funky Austin Signs

While driving down Exposition Boulevard, I came to a stop at the intersection with Lake Austin Boulevard and the sign on my right immediately caught my eye. The sign says STOP HERE ON RED and has a curved arrow that breaks up the words HERE and ON. I thought to myself “well, that’s different,” but it did not seem totally out of place. Looking straight ahead, I also notice that the street sign reading LAKE AUSTIN BLVD was also different from common street signs; the first letter of each word is capitalized and the rest of the letters are lowercase. Also, the sign for Exposition Boulevard is unique because it has a capital E and small capitals for the other letters, when most street signs are in capitals all the same size.
It seems that I found a unique intersection in the middle of Austin. These signs are typographically different than other traffic signs that we encounter from day to day; however, I feel that they pay a tribute to the weirdness of Austin. I do not know where else you could find a street corner with such incongruity amongst traffic signs.
The purpose of the STOP HERE ON RED sign, city traffic engineer John Merritt explains, is to keep drivers from running over anyone in the crosswalk when wishing to make a right turn on red. It is situated a few yards from the adjacent street so that the arrow is pointing to the first white bar of the crosswalk. The sign uses , which is a sans serif typeface. This font is used for traffic signs because it is easily read from far away and in various lighting and weather conditions. The designer of the sign also chose the make the words STOP and RED larger, creating a sense of hierarchy that places more importance on those words. Other STOP HERE ON RED signs have the arrow underneath the text, and the arrow is in a downward 45 degree angle, as opposed to a curve.

Although I am attracted to the funkiness of the sign I found on Exposition and Lake Austin, as a designer I feel the need to reorganize the layout of it. When redesigning this sign, I chose to put the words in Charcoal typeface because I think that staying with a sans serif type is important to make sure the sign is legible. Also, Charcoal is bold and I wanted an intense looking font. My main focus in doing this sign over was to keep all of the words connected. I did this by placing HERE on its own line and ON on the line with RED. I feel that the word HERE is just as important as RED, since the point of the sign is to get the driver to stop at a certain spot, so I chose to make them both the same size. The arrow is ideally placed underneath the text. The redesign of this sign is more unified and more visually pleasing, instead of confusing like the original is.
What is interesting to me is that at a neighboring street corner, Rosebud and Lake Austin, stands another STOP HERE ON RED sign but with the arrow underneath the text. The reason for this inconsistency? I doubt that there is one, because, well, that's Austin.

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