Traffic System Typefaces

ralf h.'s picture

We started to compile a list of official traffic system typefaces. So far we covered:

FHWA Series Fonts/Clearview - USA/Canada
DIN Mittelschrift/Engschrift - Germany
Transport/Motorway - Great Britain
ANWB-Ee/ANWB-Uu - The Netherlands
Mittelschrift/Engschrift Austria - Austria
ASTRA Frutiger - Switzerland
Tratex - Sweden
Trafikkalfabetet - Norway

Who knows more official typefaces?


jupiterboy's picture

Metron and Arrival may or may not meet your definition of official.


ralf h.'s picture

Italy uses Traffic Type Spain? That's funny! ;-)
Do you know if this is the official name and the official typeface? Or is »Traffic Type Spain« just a similar commercial version of the original typeface? (Like Interstate is for FHWA fonts)

About Spain I just found this statement:
»En España, según la norma 8.1-I.C, se deben usar dos tipografías que se adjuntan dimensionadas con la norma. Para la señalización en autopistas, autovías y vías para automóviles, se utilizará el alfabeto denominado Autopista; mientras que para las carreteras convencionales, el entorno urbano y el resto de vías se usará el alfabeto Carretera Convencional.
Exiten versiones comerciales de las dos fuentes. La versión del alfabeto Autopista es la fuente Highway gotic, y del Carretera Convencional es Traffic Type Spain1 .«

Can anyone help to translate?
I guess it means they use a font called »Autopista« (based on Highway Gothic) and font called »Carretera Convencional« which is equal to »Traffic Type Spain«. Correct?


Alessandro Segalini's picture

Thanks, Andrea. Not much to say about "TTSD" actually.
From 2005, node 15516, "1930/40's German street signs," FF City Street Type.
From 2006, “Typeface on US Traffic Signs."
Jeremy Tankard's Wayfarer for Sheffield, UK.
From 1993, Todd Childers' MFA Thesis at CalArts, "Signs for Speed."

berga83's picture

mmm i'm not 100% sure about it (because i couldn't find a specific name for the font used in Italy, only a specimen of it) but i'm pretty sure it is Traffic Type Spain: i'm doing a thesis on a re-design of this typeface and i'm very interested in the subject!

here is the translation of what of the spanish text you posted.
"In Spain, according to the 8.1-I.C law two typographies are to be used. For signage on highways, freeways and normal car-roads (i'm not sure about the technical differences among these kinds of roads) the Autopista font will be used. For conventional streets, urban sorroundings and the rest of the streets the Carretera Conventional font will be used.
Commercial versions of those fonts can be found. Highway Gothic is the Autopista's commercial version of the font, while Traffic Type Spain 1 is the Carretera Conventional's version."

Autopista/Highway Gothic
Carretera/Traffic Type Spain 1

ralf h.'s picture

Thank you very much!
Usually, the national traffic authorities publish all the information about signs and typefaces on their websites, but it's hard to research this stuff, when you don't speak the language ... Therefore I couln't figure out Italy, France, Poland and many more.

Let me know how your thesis works out!


dan_reynolds's picture

Erik Spiekermann showed a whole range of (badly-drawn?) European highway types during his second lecture at the 2006 ATypI Lisbon conference. Perhaps you should get in contact with him?

joeclark's picture

No, Jupiterboy, they wouldn’t. And I wish people would stop parroting “Arrival!” whenever they hear any synonym of the phrase “signage font.” Arrival is a mess. (I told K. Tam I didn’t like his font, so I’m not speaking out of church.)

Joe Clark

Richard Hards's picture

EDITED: Irrelevance.

Joe, I apologise, it was obviously me who was not paying attention.

jupiterboy's picture

Thanks for not accusing me of parroting. I've used Arrival on a small wayfinding project. It is limited. I had read it was used for the University of Reading on-campus signs.

Metron was never fully implemented. I didn't know how Ralf was defining official or traffic for that matter. Maybe you could start a thread about the weaknesses of Arrival.

Miguel Sousa's picture

Ralf, the specifications for traffic signs in Portugal are available here:

The fonts are made available for AutoCAD. I couldn't find an official reference to the typeface's name, but the PDF instruction file mentions 'JAE - Fonte'. Considering the examples available on the website (sample below), this might as well be the same typeface used in other european countries, or an adaptation of it.

clauses's picture

The Danish official typeface for road signage is 'Dansk Vejtavleskrift' (Danish road sign typeface). It looks like this:

ralf h.'s picture

Thank you very much Clauses and Miguel!

berga83's picture

Dear Ralf,
I confirm that on the Italian "Street regulations code" the name of the font used for signs is not mentioned.
Only a specimen is available, and the font is always referred to as positive or negative "alphabet".

The font is Traffic Type Spain D.

I also found out that in some rare cases the Transport is used, but that does not happen on highway or freeway signs.
"Transport" on a station sign, Italy


Goran Soderstrom's picture

I kind of like the rough design of Tratex, but the digital version of it is terribly badly digitized unfortunately. Or let me put it like this: it is not digitized by a type designer, and has lot of "bad curves" ;-)

Just to give an example, this is the capital "C":

You can find the fonts at Vägverket:

Alessandro Segalini's picture

La storia è un po’ complicata e confusa. La segnaletica stradale & autostradale si basa su convenzioni (relativamente) internazionali, che riguardano anche il carattere. L’Italia dagli anni sessanta ha adottato il carattere disegnato (dal 1957 al 1967) appositamente per l’uso stradale in inghilterra. Il progettista che ha disegnato la segnaletica e il carattere in uso è Jock Kinneir (e Margaret Calvert), il carattere è appunto il Transport (URW, 1980).
La normativa della segnaletica italiana (quanto mai deprimente) si trova in qualunque edizione completa del Codice della Strada, che la riporta integralmente con tutti gli alfabeti prescritti. L’avevano fatta certi ingegneri del Ministero dei Lavori Pubblici, dei quali uno forse si chiamava Cecilia.
Il sistema progettato da Kinneir e implementato nel 1963 è un segno di durabilità stilistica. Anthony Froshaug, in un articolo chiamato “Roadside traffic signs” (originariamente pubblicato nella rivista inglese Design No. 178, 1963), provò che non c’era ragione alcuna per un miglioramento del suddetto sistema di segnaletica esistente.
Le targhe automobilistiche italiane sono progettate dall’IPZS, l’Istituto Poligrafico.
Nella primavera del 2003 a Milano la Triennale ha ospitato una mostra molto interessante dal titolo “Asfalto, il Carattere Della Città”.

ralf h.'s picture

Damn, I only understand the first sentence. :-(


Alessandro Segalini's picture

Andrea Bergamini, would you mind translating my 10.07am post in English for Ralf Hermann and the forum ?
Thanks very much.

berga83's picture

ok, here is the translation:

"The story is a bit complicated and confused. The road and highway signage is based on relatively international standards, that also involve the fonts to be used. From the beginning of the '60s Italy used the font designed (from 1957 to 1967) specifically for street signs in the UK. The designers of the sign layouts and the of the font in use are Jock Kinneir and Margaret Calvert, and the font is Transport (URW, 1980).
The laws on Italian signage (quite depressing) are on any complete edition of the Italian "Codice della Strada" -Manual of road laws and rules, that has specimens of all the alphabets to be used. Some engineers from the Public Works Department, one of which maybe was called Cecilia, worked on it.
The system designed by Kinneir and implemented in 1963 is an example of stylistic durability.
In an article called "Roadside traffic sign" (originally published on the British magazine Design No. 178, 1963) Anthony Froshaug proved that there was no reason for an improvement of that signage system.
The Italian license plates are designed by the IPZS, the Istituto Poligrafico.
In Spring 2003 the Triennale in Milano hosted a very interesting show called "Asfalto, the character of the city".

in my researches though, i found that Traffic Type Spain D (from an unknown designer), as it appears here is a lot closer in look to what appears on the Italian highways than Kinneir's Transport, (1957-67), even in its Heavy variant.
what my opinion is, is that the font that is being used took its shape from Kinneir's original design (the similarity with it is out of doubt), but was redrawn and applied without consideration of what were the lighting and optical problems concerned.

i will let you guys (that for sure have a lot more typographical experience than i do) judge these images, but please let me know your opinions!

Below is the comparison between:

1) what appears on italian road signs (in particular this one is from the highway)

2) Kinneir's Transport Bold (preview from

3) Traffic Type Spain D (preview from

ralf h.'s picture

Okay, here's the updated list:

FHWA Series Fonts/Clearview - USA/Canada
FHWA Series Fonts (modified) - Australia
DIN Mittelschrift/Engschrift - Germany
Transport/Motorway - Great Britain
ANWB-Ee/ANWB-Uu - The Netherlands
Mittelschrift/Engschrift Austria - Austria
ASTRA Frutiger - Switzerland
Tratex - Sweden
Trafikkalfabetet - Norway
L1/L2, L3/L4 - France
Dansk Vejtavleskrift - Denmark
Autopista, Carretera Conventional - Spain
Transport (Modified) - Island

Spotted, but without official source or official transport authority name:
Traffic Type Spain (AKA Carretera Conventional) - Italy
DIN - Greece, Czech Republik, Latvia
Arial - Estonia
Transport - Hong Kong
FHWA Series - Malaysia

Images (with German texts) here:

New information about typefaces in countries not mentioned are highly welcome!

eriks's picture

I am not going to burden you with all the data I have on this – some of it you don’t want to see. Just one example below:
A gentleman called Nathaniel Porter has digitized Transport Heavy, and it is being used by various agencies. The data is even worse than the Swedish Tratex font which must have been done by an amateur on on Ikarus system without corrections. This one here is just a raw scan. Amazingly, it works as a font. Too heavy for signs, but just shows how good font software has become if it can actually make a working font from a scan that looks like a piece of German rye bread.

The other illustration is from a project I have been working on for the European Community. It won't be ready for a while – these things take forever and will be tested by the same people who are using Transport Heavy by Mr Porter. I still have to make different bitmap sizes and, thanks to Bitfonter and Adam Twardoch, these will actually be fairly legible. All the other dynamic signs in Europe use bitmaps that have been generated automatically from DIN, Transport or whatever they use in the countries.

eriks's picture

I forgot to mention:
I suspect that this version of Transport Heavy is being used in Italy and Spain. And in Greece as well. Portugal seems to have paid a license for the real fonts from URW, but the others must have preferred the free version. And we all know how good those are...

eriks's picture

Another foot note. This is what it says in the Readme:

This font was made by Nathaniel Porter from images in the Department for Transport Proposed Revision of the Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions documentation which can be found here:

This font can be found online at

It may not be used for commerical purposes.

I suppose a country's road maps are not commercial.

berga83's picture

Thank you very much for all the information, Mr. Spiekermann, I would only like to make a remark: the font can now be found at this website, the other link seems to not be working.

eriks's picture

These people have obviously taken some print-out and made fonts from it. The font info credits Erwin Denissen, 1999, These are the people that make a product called FontCreator. Judging from this font, I wouldn’t recommend anybody using it. Unless they want to work for some government agency, of course.
This screen grab is from this unofficial version of Transport Medium.

The official Spanish Transport Heavy has decent outlines, why would anybody use an ultra bold weight, especially for white out of blue? There are no counters left.

russellm's picture

Hmm. Well, I work for a government agency :¬) and I wouldn't use Font Creator, after having tried the 30 day free download.


ralf h.'s picture

The other illustration is from a project I have been working on for the European Community.

Please don't tell me, that the EU is planning to unify the traffic system typefaces!?
I don't want that - even if it would be a good design.


Richard Hards's picture

I don't know that there is an "official/government" release of Transport as a font.

PDFs of the alphabet can be found here

EDIT: I forgot to mention the URW++ version of the font, which is rather better.

wim arial's picture

The official traffic system typefaces in Belgium is SNV-regular or SNV-condensed (SNV: Association Suisse de Normalisation). SNV has a somewhat more squarish design.
SNV Extra Condensed is designed by Verein Schweizer in 1972

berga83's picture

It appears (from what I was told by URW++) that the URW++ digital versions of Traffic Type Spain and Transport were created at the beginning of the '80s, for the SIGNUS signmaking system, and that the artwork for Traffic Type Spain was supplied directly by their representative in Spain.

In that period URW++ digitalized many European road sign typefaces under request of their signmaking costumers.

Unfortunately at URW++ there aren't any more information information about the source, the specifications or the designer of Traffic Type.

Quoting the book Signs: Lettering in the Environment: "there is not an official commercial release of the Transport type, except for that of Letraset sheets in the 60s and 70s" (pg. 32 of the Italian version).

eriks's picture

Please don’t tell me, that the EU is planning to unify the traffic system typefaces!?

Don't worry – this is only for the electronic signs, what they call Variable Message Signs. I designed the bitmaps before the outline version. That one will be used as headers or other permanent stuff on the display boards.

I would hate to lose the variety on Europe's roads, even though most of the type is bad. But it's still typical for each country.

Lorcs's picture

Is Transport used in Australia and New Zealand?

Richard Hards's picture

created at the beginning of the ’80s, for the SIGNUS signmaking system
That makes a lot of sense Andrea.

Spandex also had Transport available for their Gerber plotters in the UK in the early 80s.

I seem to recall the fonts were over £100 back then, they came as EPROM modules. I think you could install about six in the 4B.

Sorry Ralf, I seem to have gone a bit OT.

image found at

russellm's picture



My office still has one tucked away in the shop. Ran like a tank, but it could only handle 200 characters at a time. The fonts came on chips that plugged into the board. you're right, it could hold six. The day we "went metric", I found you could convert the machine to metric by flipping two tiny switches inside... The result was metric equivalents of imperial units. So I switched it back and we stayed with imperial.


cuttlefish's picture

Wow! A vinyl cutter that strips by its self?

ralf h.'s picture

Just for laughs:
"One of the most universally used typefaces for signs is Helvetica medium […] Although commendable for its legibility, there are many other sans serif faces which are equally good, and which have more character, for example Akzidenz Grotesk, Arial, Avant Garde, Futura."

From the book "Sign Design Guide"

berga83's picture

For anybody interested I just posted some images of the Italian "Alfabeto" and "Alfabeto stretto" from the "Italian Street regulations manual" on my flickr page.

The copy I have is dated 2002, but I am sure that the part concerning the font is still up to date.

Antonio Cavedoni's picture

Thanks for the pictures, Andrea. The black version of the Transport typeface we’re using here in Italy is really awful: counterforms are barely visible. I’m looking forward to seeing the results of your research.

berga83's picture

Thank you Antonio, the research is in progress, and I am about to start working on the design, very challenging but fun, so I hope i can get something good out of it...
Ciao for now and maybe see you in Modena one day!

Thingy's picture

Carretera Convencional as a font in Spanish traffic sign documents
is generally called CCRIGE.
CC being its initials and RIGE I think is the name of the traffic authority.
Autopista though, doesn't seem to get the RIGE tag.

I live in the UK and once bought the URW Transport Medium/Heavy.
They're not authentic [don't follow the deparment for transport drawings]

My preference is the set produced by Magnum

Castcraft do a version called OPTI Transfer

jasiu's picture

Polish roadsign font:
You can download it from here -

Has anyone found a digitalized version (latin, cyryllic, other?) of the font used on road signs in USSR, and now in Russia, Ukraine, Lithuania, etc.?

guifa's picture

For signage on highways, freeways and normal car-roads (i’m not sure about the technical differences among these kinds of roads) the Autopista font will be used. For conventional streets,

Basically, the autopistas and autovías are what in the US would be called Interstates. They are the roads which are designated with either an A (Autovía, such as A-6) or AP (Autopista, AP-41). The primary difference between these roads is the design standards (APs are newer, with easier curves and more straight areas with better on and off ramps) and that the Autovías are free to use, while the AP charge tolls. Carreteras are equivalent to US-highways or state roads, and are designated with an abbreviation for the province plus a number (e.g. M-30)

The MAIN difference I've seen between the two fonts used in Spain is that Autopista (the font) uses a straight bar tilde over the N in Ñ, whereas the Carretera Convencial uses the squiggly tilde and that Autopista tends to be spaced a little bit looser.

«El futuro es una línea tan fina que apenas nos damos cuenta de pintarla nosotros mismos». (La Luz Oscura, por Javier Guerrero)

Thingy's picture

I've just had a look at the versions of
Autopista and Highway E modified
that come with Scanvec Flexisign.
Autopista is a little lighter and
there are some differences in letters,
I've put the most obvious in the following jpg:

Looking at this picture on the Typowiki page posted by Ralf Herrmann:
the top of the lowercase d slopes in the opposite direction to Highway Em.
This doesn't happen in the Flexisign version of Autopista,
but can be seen in this alphabet if you look closely:

berga83's picture

I have just posted on my flickr a map with the origin and routes taken by the two most common typefaces used in road signage throughout the world, Forbes' Highway Gothic and Kinneir's Transport.

Feel free to comment, it is still a work in progress, and all of your advice will be very appreciated!

Thank you,

aeshoukas's picture

Hi there! I'm currently on holiday in Greece and quite taken by the common road sign font used here. I can't quite pin-point what it is, but Transport Heavy appears to be closest candidate. Still, it's quite different though - any ideas?

berga83's picture

I would say it is not Transport (an official version of which was never relesased for use outside of Great Britain, except for Letraset films), but one of the many copies we can find around the world.

Unlike the Italian Transport, though, this version of Kinneir’s alphabeth seems a lot more freely interpreted, still keeping many similarities with that design.

The most curious aspect of these signs is, in my opinion, the Greek version of the Transport, designed to work with the Latin one but used in a different color and placed on separate signs…probably a bit confusing for drivers!

Does anybody have more precise information about this Greek “Θϱανσποϱτ”?

p.s. Great picture by the way!

hrant's picture


Ralf, great compilation so far.


Richard Hards's picture

On the subject of language specific variations of Transport, I'd be interested to find out more about these.


Image from Icelandic Government driving guidance leaflet.

And also this Gaelic italic variant used on bilingual signs in Ireland.

Image from Irish traffic sign manufacturer Rennicks website.

Any inforamtion about digital fonts and links to official sign documentation gratefully received.


Richard Hards's picture

OK, so the eth is a standard character (as is the thorn, also used in Icelandic, but not on this panel), but I'm sorry to say I'd not noticed it before. Is it used anywhere else?

That deals with the Icelandic, but I'm sure I don't recall seeing Gaelic alternates in any of the cuts of Transport I've come across.


ralf h.'s picture

The islandic characters are standard in western codepages, but they are not included in the Transport alphabet. You can check out the original drawings here:

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