Citizen complaint of the day: Crisis of font in the South End

Appleton Street sign

An aggrieved citizen reports from Appleton Street:

The new street signs using the Clearview font are an improvement, but this sign is incorrect. The capital A is out of proportion to the lower case letters, and it is visually jarring. The signs with all capital letters, such as at the corner of Tremont and Hanson Streets, are correctly printed and look much better. The city should continue to correct this. It is a small detail that impacts the visual quality of the South End. Thank you.

The DPW's sign painters will rue the day they messed with the South End.



Free tagging: 


Eat the rich.

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Eat the rich.


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I have to play Frogger every morning on Comm Ave to get to my T stop because the light has been broken, and my report of the broken light open, for almost two weeks. They're probably too busy clearing out whiny complaints like this one.

How about instead of wasting money to replace perfectly functional (if in some, but not all, eyes un-aesthetically appealing) street signs we use that money to fund the MBTA?

You must live near me.

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The light at Sutherland Rd has been flashing yellow since I moved in September. Crossing the street there is terrifying.


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And I just noticed that my report was "closed yesterday", though it was still open as of this morning, and as well you know, that darned light was still flashing yellow this morning.

I may have to (gasp!) call tommorrow to complain. There doesn't seem to be a "uh, try again guys" feature to the app.


Someone from BPW must read this, because the light is fixed now. I saw traffic stopped and was like "Accident?" but no! The light was red!

I hate the new signs. What

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I hate the new signs.

What happened to putting the city seal on the signs too? These look cheap. For all the extra money the city spends on fake antiquated lights, why are they going "el cheapo on" the signs that adorn them???

What does a girl

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have to do to be called a woman around here?


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I for one, was extremely jarred by the visuals of that sign. It's crazy how people spend time complaining about the most asinine things via Citizen Complaint.


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Okay, so the economy is in shambles and someone decided that it was worth the expense to have lower case letters on street signs? Who is the overpaid moron that made this decision? My 8 year old nephew could choose a font that looks more professional. It's less easy to read and is a waste of money. What a friggin' joke!

it IS important

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I noticed there's a sign on the corner of Commonwealth and Allston that uses a similar lowercase font and is off-centered to boot. It looks terrible.

Sure, street signs are not a big deal, but if an organization can't be bothered to print a sign centered, why should we trust that they care about things that matter more? Besides, the aesthetics of a community have an impact on the quality of life. Take a look at the nicely-landscaped (and privately managed) Mission Main housing development and then walk down the street to the ugly, poorly maintained BHA Alice Taylor Homes. I'm sure BHA could make a very convincing case that keeping the grass looking nice and the hallways free of detritus isn't their highest priority, but the signal that BHA sends is that they can't be bothered and if you want your family to live in a nice place you should move out as soon as you can.

I get that living in an urban environment means putting up with a certain degree of grime. I choose to live in Allston/Brighton. But that doesn't mean the city shouldn't make the effort to do things the right way.

Tell you what:

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I'll personally pay for the City to replace this particular sign with one in Comic Sans, just to f*ck with this guy.

Better idea

Get one printed in Comic Sans, one in Papyrus, one in Webdings, and one in alternating capital and lowercase letters.

aPpLeTon sT

Okay, but the bigger question is, what is Ed Ped holding?

Ed Ped being the ubiquitous stick figure of PED XING signs. Is that a sub sandwich wrapped in wax paper, or something?

Seriously, of all the issues people could sweat. Also, the use of mixed-case lettering is necessary to achieve conformance with MUTCD. They're more easily readable at a glance, I'm told. (I think I learned that on Universal Hub.)

Life is Good

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Life must be pretty good if this person has the time to write about capital letters. Perhaps they could team up with Steve Fox and the Rutland crew to rid the city of trash and private alleys with potholes (aka the biggest issues facing the South End).

Yes, this complaint is a

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Yes, this complaint is a nit.

But the whole point of replacing the signs was because the powers that write the MUTCD decided mixed-case signs would be more readable, and therefore safer.

If Boston screwed up when putting in the new signs, they should fix the screwup. If the new signs aren't compliant, and are tough to read, then the whole project was worse than a waste of money.

They didn't just "decide"

They did research and testing to verify which combinations were the most readable at speed.

Sorry, this isn't an aesthetic decision, but a practical one based on how humans recognize and process information. Your opinion about it would be more interesting if you could actually cite research to the contrary, or point to some controversy in the standard's formulation.

If you want to learn more, I suggest you do some research yourself into how standards are proposed, formulated, tested, and ratified. There are many different organizations from SAE to MUTCD to the National Institute of Standards that do these things according to well-vetted processes.

ON THE OTHER HAND, the nit picker is right that the upper and lower case letters are not properly proportioned to MUTCD standards, if you look at figure 3:

No, this sign is NOT Clearview font.

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It's just standard Highway Gothic with mixed-case lettering, but one of the narrower fonts (likely a Series C or B). The lettering is probably 6 inch upper case with a 4 inch lower case.

It also appears to me that the overall height of the sign is too small for the legend (for a 6 inch legend, the 'blank" should be 12 inches high). Inadequate space above and below the legend does affect sign visibility as well.

Also, it is my current understanding that much of the "research" on improved legibility of mixed-case font that resulted in the 2009 MUTCD changes to these signs was based on larger guide signs (like those on Interstates) and simply extrapolated to the smaller letter heights used on street name signs.

Unlike the field studies done in the 1950s (aka the Bureau of Public Roads Sign Tests) to develop standards for the first Interstate highway signs, it appears that nearly all this subsequent research work was done with driving simulators and by showing participants static slides, as opposed to putting actual signs on the street and evaluating them that way.

Despite current MUTCD requirements, some in the highway signing community are of the opinion that mixed-case lettering on signs with smaller legends (less than eight inches high) - like most street name signs - are actually less legibile to drivers than signs with all uppercase lettering at the same distance. While this may not make much difference on a 20 mph residential street, it can make a difference on a 30 or 35 mph arterial road.

"Rue the day"?

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Who talks like that?

it's an extremely common

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it's an extremely common expression... there aren't really many phrases you could use to replace it, either (without rearranging the structure of the sentence).

I'm pretty sure you're just barely literate

And as for the street sign, I actually noticed that sign a while ago and thought it looked stupid and out-of-place. But I'm not some homosexual trust-funder like everyone else in the South End so I didn't report it to the city because I don't care about the aesthetic in a glorified shit-hole ghetto that's now a trendy place to live and expensive just because of its location. It's funny that people pay 1200-2000 a month to live in some of those apartments which are worse and smaller than most apartments in Allston or Mission Hill, which are overpriced to begin with.

Just so you know:

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There are about 5 "homosexuals" still living in the South End, annfrankfanfuc.

Obviously you haven't been here in the last 5 years or so and witnessed the de-gayification of this part of town. Its now filled with trust fund HETEROsexuals and other generally obnoxious predominantly straight people and their overprivileged offspring. The only gays you see would be the decorators of the wealthy white women of Wellesley who now call the South End their home.

But I'll give you credit where credit is due for calling it an overpriced glorified shithole. Just keep in mind that the straights, not the gays, caused it to be overpriced and glorified. As for the shithole, well, its always been and always will be.

W-a-a-a-a-a-a I'm jealous

Nope; the South End isn't made up of "trust-fund" babies, gay or straight. Sorry to be the one to break it to you, but most of us work hard every day and earn the money we use to buy our homes.

I know it's hard to accept that other people are doing better than you are because they're smarter or they work harder.

We pay the price to live here because it's a nice, relatively safe, attractive, convenient neighborhood. Most of us shop at Shaws, use public transportation, and eat-in five or six times a week. Gee, just like everyone else. Many of us spend time working on issues through our neighborhood associations - fighting crime, blight, and quality of life issues such as dirty and unplowed streets, trash collection, and park maintenance. Some of us have children in the Boston public schools. Most of us pay our property taxes.

And, many people who live here have done so for one, two, three, or more decades, and worked hard to improve the neighborhood from when it was a shit hole.

Try spending less time being jealous and more time being productive.

And I am sure that you do.

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"I know it's hard to accept that other people are doing better than you are because they're smarter or they work harder."

Ouch. Mr. Keith. Ouch.

movie quote

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Calling everyone in the South End a "homosexual trust-funder"?

0.5/10, too obvious.

Also, the "rue the day" thing is a quote from the movie Real Genius. Funny movie. Might wanna watch it some time.

I have the misfortune of

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living in the South End with these people, who apparently think that "visually jarring" typography is the city's biggest concern. Not surprisingly, some of the other South End citizens' compaints consist of minimal graffiti on an electric box.

These ridiculous complaints have the effect of watering down the real and important complaints, such as the ones about huge amounts of garbage lying around and blowing down the streets.

These whiny South Enders seem to be blind to the drug deals, prostitution and other crime running rampant in the South End; They seem to only see the "classy" restaurants, but when it comes to typography or the possibilty of a down-market coffee shop opening near their block, that's when they come together. Nice priorities.


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...people are far too illiterate to comprehend the difference between lower and upper case.

Clearly this is the issue of or time.

(Something written here about people developing a LIFE)