Typography Can Save Our Lives

It’s been a while I read something on typography, let alone share it here.

The latest one I’ve read is about how typography can save your life, literally.

In the case of the weather service’s all-caps type, it’s the font version of the boy who cried wolf. Using ALL CAPS for everything — from severe hurricanes to a slight chance of showers — means that EVERYTHING LOOKS THE SAME AND EVERYTHING LOOKS IMPORTANT. Once people realize that most of the time it’s not, they may become desensitized to warnings. When nothing stands out, people are likely to miss real emergencies.

Now that the weather service can use ALL CAPS sparingly — as a tool to highlight real danger — the public is more likely to pay attention.

We realized we could still use ALL CAPS within products to add emphasis, such as ‘TORNADO WARNING. TAKE COVER NOW!’” said Art Thomas, the weather service meteorologist in charge of the project. “We hope that using all caps for emphasis will get people’s attention when it matters and encourage people to take action to protect their safety.

All caps makes for harder reading:

In an emergency, that extra time to decipher an urgent message may come at a cost.

Comparing the old and new sign, the new one is certainly more legible. It’s sharper and our mind processes them faster.

It’s not just weather forecast that’s making refinement, highway road signs are striding forward too:

One of the most important changes was widening the tiny shapes inside letters called counter spaces (like the hole inside the O or P). But the designers also adjusted the height of the ascenders in characters like b, d, f, h, as well as spacing between letters.

While driving, it’s important to take in information quickly and keep the eyes on the road. Again, comparing the two, the new typeface is cleaner. A lot clearer and less ambiguous.

NASA even has a recommendation of the best practices. The ones that stood out for me are:

1.Sans-serif fonts are usually more legible than fonts with serifs.
2.Avoid using a font that has characters that are too similar to one another, as this will reduce the legibility of the print.
3.Avoid using dot matrix print for critical flight-deck documentation.
4. Long chunks of text should be set in lower case.
11. Avoid using long strings of text set in italics.