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Department Of Transport To Reduce Road Signage Clutter

By raccars Published

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The Department for Transport apparently has some spare time on its hands. In 2013, it decided to make a count of the number of road signs to which UK drivers are subjected. The total was 4.57 million road signs for England alone, growing at a rate of 10,000 new signs annually. That's an awful lot of information for drivers to take in while they should be looking at the road...

What can be said in their favour is that the UK's standard format roadsign is a basic pictogram. This style was devised in the 1960s to introduce a uniform set of signs, as part of Britain's preparations for joining the Common Market and its requirement to follow the Geneva Convention on signage. The new system was the work of the director of ICI and, at one time, the chairman of the Council for Industrial Design, Walter Worboys.

He worked as part of a team of three, with Chelsea College of Art tutor, Jock Kinneir and student, Margaret Calvert, to develop the pictogram series with which we're all so familiar now. They worked on a basis that the signs needed to be comprehensible in the long term, rather than follow fashion at the time.

The format couldn't be any simpler or clearer: black pictures or symbols upon a white background, with a minimum of text and which could be understood by drivers of any nation. These were printed on circles fitting a European standard. Where text was required, the designers worked to a new typeface of their own creation, called 'Transport.' This was developed to be easily decipherable by drivers, with a combination or upper and lower case lettering. The same font is now used by a number of other countries for their road signs.

The design process lasted less than a year - replacing the previous range of signs with the new versions took longer. The replacement project started on 1 January 1965, but apparently, Brits took a while to get to grips with the new format. Nonetheless, the system must have worked, because after 50 years, we are still using the same designs, apart from a few design refreshments.

A new programme by the Department for Transport begins in March, designed to reduce the amount of signage clutter suffered by British motorists. This won't be a complete revamp but more of a simplification process, which will nonetheless, retain the nationwide consistency introduce by Worboys and his team.

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