Flying Font Friday 1

Helvetica airport signage

Also see my post Flying Font Friday 2, about typeforms found in butterfly wings.

Why the Same Three Typefaces Are Used In Almost Every Airport

From Gizmodo by Alissa Walker
Wayfinding signage is an invisible network draped upon our public places. And that network has to work especially hard in airports when we’re lost, hungry, and exhausted. Especially when helping us navigate in jetlagged states using strange languages, good wayfinding means sticking to clear, legible typefaces. So how do designers choose?”It’s like a spiderweb—you can’t touch one spot without making the whole web move,” says Jim Harding, who designed the wayfinding system for Atlanta’s Hartsfield International Airport, the busiest airport on the planet. In an interview adapted from David Zweig’s book Invisibles: The Power of Anonymous Work in an Age of Relentless Self-Promotion, Harding takes us through the design catacombs of the Atlanta airport (okay, the terminals) to show us how he developed an international graphic language to prevent passengers from getting lost. In addition to all sorts of fascinating details about the behavior of travelers, the story includes this fascinating nugget: Just three typefaces are used in the wayfinding signage for 75 percent of airports: Helvetica, Frutiger, and Clearview.

It makes perfect sense that airports would employ sans serif typefaces, which are easier to read at a distance (and bad for small, on-screen type). But there are also some pretty sweet little details found within these typefaces which make them winners for airport signage. Here are the three you’re most likely to find at an airport near you.

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