Urban wayfinding signs: Evaluating exceptions to FHWA's standard alphabets

Philip M. Garvey

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

2 Scopus citations


Like many cities in the United States, Miami Beach, Florida, has developed a wayfinding signage plan for its urban neighborhoods. The architectural firm hired by the city recommended use of the Futura typeface; however, the federal Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices and by reference the Standard Highway Signs book specify that all signs on public access roads in the United States shall use the Standard Alphabet typeface. For FHWA to approve an alternative typeface, such as Futura, its visibility must be shown through valid scientific experimentation to be equal to or greater than the comparable Standard Alphabet series. This report documents a research project requested by the Florida Department of Transportation and FHWA to determine whether Futura provides this level of visibility. The research was conducted with full-sized wayfinding signs located on city streets in the Miami Beach area. A group of 34 older and younger motorists viewed the signs from a vehicle driven through live traffic at operating speeds representative of the area. The research conducted here shows that the Futura typeface, when used in accordance with the wayfinding system proposed for the city streets of Miami Beach, provides sign legibility and recognition distances equal to or greater than the comparable Standard Alphabet Series B and C. This research effort presents a model test method for evaluating exceptions to FHWA's Standard Alphabet for use in urban wayfinding sign systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationTraffic Control Devices, Visibility, and Rail-Highway Grade Crossings 2007
PublisherNational Research Council
Number of pages5
ISBN (Print)9780309104579
StatePublished - 2007

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Civil and Structural Engineering


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