Environmental Type Exploration
My typographic experiment delves into the third dimension. Just about killing a forrest of trees with all of the typographic research I’ve printed and cut out, I’ve noticed two areas within typographic design that were quite difficult for an inkjet printer to produce: 1) kinetic typography, by means of motion graphics within the realm of animation and an RGB monitor and 2) environmental signage, dealing with design outside print and web that interacts within our 3-dimensional world. This environmental typographic trend, I found lacking in importance and representation of popularity and practical function; or at the very least, could improved upon.
I’ve asked myself a few questions to fire up motivation that could funnel my direction within the many avenues of typographic environmental signage: Why am I choosing this, what specific problems or areas does it have, which area can be improved, what has been done to improve it, where does it exists, when was it conceived, when is it at its peak of success, how does it affect our culture or society, who is it affecting, what are its functions or purposes currently, and how can I solve the problem at hand? The first thought that came to mind was highway signage, although the design of the new Clearview typeface in 2004 by James Montalbane, used on the recognizable U.S. highway signs, is by far one of the most legible typefaces I have read within the environment and know the extent of studies that have been conducted about speed, scale, and distance have been produced into what we know as Clearview, some of its problems lie, not within readability or legibility, but within awareness and retention through distance or perspective. This new typeface that replaced the older FHWA typefaces of the 1940s is a humanist san serif font that was designed to mirror the clarity of similar European highway signage systems. I believe the traits of environmental signage, speaking as a purpose, are to aid in discovery of a destination in travel. Whether it be finding the right road signs that will guide you to your destination, finding a fast food restaurant to eat at or a retail store to find that perfect jacket, through your travel to get there; well crafted typography within the environment makes it possible to find these specific devices of recognition.
For a group of collected item to be labeled as a whole, consistencies must be weighed throughout the collection and a system must be established. International highway and interstate systems are the first to define this environmental system, but its 2-D and 3-D traits of readability and awareness in scale, color, form, and most importantly... placement, with the consideration of intended viewer perspective must be top priority. Sometimes you’re not sure where to find a restroom within a shopping mall or retail store due to the indicated typographic sign is too skewed to be found at the angle you are standing at. Most of the time, restaurants or retail outlets place multiple signs everywhere to maximize awareness realty. They are hanging from ceilings, sprouting from walls, lying on the floor, and even standing within a directory. Although sheer number of signs can solve this problem, it is a very sloppy solution avenue to travel down, and in all honesty can be designer better and smarter to also economically improve society.
The importance of environmental signage and typography is to inform of geographical location. I think the purpose is flawless, but the problems that hinder the success of this purpose lie within the application. My Typographic thesis is going to be experimenting by creating typographic forms and solutions that can be legible from multiple perspectives within an environment to increase awareness, legibility, readability, and retention. The Berma-Shave billboards of 1925-1963 were the first to pioneer a solution that combined improvement of legibility, awareness, and retention within the highway advertisement signage body of work. They were the first to put billboards at a 30 degree angle to accommodate more time to comprehend the readability of what was being advertised. They are also the first company to create humorous and gimmicky ads that were broken up into a series of sequential signs that were placed behind each other, on separate boards. This spacial solution to break up slogans into smaller increments has improved the retention of the advertisement for all highway travelers.
A modern take on Berma-Shave’s solution is what I am striving for. It may not take the same form or application, but the improvements through relative problems are the same and can be applied in any situation. Readability, legibility, awareness, and retention through illusion-like perspective and typographic form.