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Section 4: Sign Legends

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The sign legend includes all text messages (words and numbers) and symbols intended to convey specific meanings. For purposes of design, borders are included as part of the sign legend. To allow drivers time to understand and respond to the message, the legend and any accompanying symbols must be simple and clear. The size and spacing of letters and symbols is also critical to sign legibility.

Standard Highway Sign Designs for Texas (SHSD) details dimensions and letter spacing for all standard signs in the Texas Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (TMUTCD). If a special sign is needed, the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) Traffic Operations Division (TRF) can assist in the layout of the text.

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Font Types

TxDOT uses two alphabets for signs. The alphabet types include the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) Standard Highway Alphabets and Clearview.

The Standard Highway Alphabets is contained in the national Standard Highway Signs and Markings (SHSM) manual. TxDOT has adopted a version of this book and also published this alphabet information in the Texas SHSD. The height of the letters, spaces between words, spaces between lines of words, and various other details are described in this document. This document provides details for six standard capital letter alphabets, Series B through F, including Emod.

In 2003, TxDOT implemented the use of Clearview font for overhead and ground mounted guide signs. This includes all signs manufactured with a white legend on a green and brown background and some that include a blue background. Research findings indicate that Clearview provides increased legibility and reduces glare when used with prismatic sheeting.

The TMUTCD requires that the Texas SHSD be used for all sign designs for consistency and standardization. The Texas SHSD and the Traffic Engineering Standard Sheets show the appropriate letter series for each sign using either of these fonts.

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The use of symbols for signs has become a major element in driver communications. Symbol signs can be interpreted at a glance without the need to read a word message. The TMUTCD illustrates the symbols approved for use on signs.

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Application Methods

Legends can be applied in several ways, depending on the sign type. The following table explains the various legend application methods.

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Type of Sign

Normal Methods of Legend Application

Regulatory, Warning, Route Marker

  • Either direct or reverse silk screening process (ink squeezed through a screen)
  • Cut-out, acrylic non-reflective decal sheeting (blank only)

Small Roadside D-Series Destination Signs

  • Cut-out, stick-on retroreflective sheeting

Large Roadside and Overhead Guide Signs

  • Cut-out, stick-on retroreflective sheeting

Details regarding application methods are provided in the Traffic Engineering Standard Sheets (TSRs).

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