• Part of a roofline shows from one building. Trees with fall color leaves on them fill most of the photo. A lamp-post is near center of the photo.

    Harpers Ferry Center

Why Frutiger and NPS Rawlinson?

A team drawn from the National Park Service, National Park Foundation, and Ogilvy Public Relations found that among the barriers to a greater public understanding of the breadth and depth of our agency was a lack of consistency in the content and appearance of visual materials presented to the public. Consequently, Harpers Ferry Center was tasked to develop graphic standards that would establish a unique organizational identity that could be expressed through the full range of communication materials used by the National Park Service.

A clear and strong graphic identity for an organization is achieved through a careful mix of visual elements. These typically include a logo (the Arrowhead), a limited palette of colors, a limited set of typefaces (usually a serif and sans serif typeface), and a number of distinctive graphic devices (like the black band), all carefully orchestrated to achieve a distinctive look. None of these elements alone can create a strong identity. But when used together, the combination serves to create a visual impression (both consciously and subconsciously) that is unique to that organization.

Typography is one important way to bind together such disparate media as printed materials, films and videos, indoor and outdoor exhibits, vehicle markings, uniforms, and signs. Road signs, for instance, are one of the most pervasive ways the Park Service communicates with park visitors. Finding typefaces that work effectively in all of these media types was no easy task. A team of HFC designers, working with Meeker & Associates (a leading environmental graphic design firm), the Dennis Konetzka Design Group, the Federal Highway Administration, and the Pennsylvania Traffic Institute at Penn State University looked at a variety of typefaces to satisfy the broad needs of the National Park Service.

The team finally settled on two typefaces: Adobe Frutiger and NPS Rawlinson. Frutiger is a sans serif typeface developed in 1968 by Adrian Frutiger for signage at the Charles de Gaulle Airport outside Paris. In contrast to Helvetica (or its Microsoft Windows counterpart Arial), Frutiger is characterized by "open" letterforms, which means, for example, that there is less chance for confusion between a "c", an "e" or an "o" on a small map or brochure, or on a road sign viewed from a distance.

Frutiger Std 55 Roman

Frutiger Std 55 Roman

NPS Rawlinson is a serif typeface developed by James Montalbano of Terminal Design. Because Rawlinson was designed with a larger x-height—the size of lower-case letters relative to adjacent upper-case letters—it too works well in both very small and very large sizes. Testing at the Pennsylvania Traffic Institute, which included both day and night driving conditions with both younger and older drivers, found that NPS Rawlinson was more legible than Clarendon or Highway Gothic—the only previous typefaces approved for use by FHWA.

NPS Rawlinson OT Oldstyle Medium

NPS Rawlinson OT Oldstyle Medium

The design team found that, in addition to the functional advantage of improved legibility, the distinctive letterforms of both Frutiger and NPS Rawlinson set them apart visually from the more common typeface varieties found on typical office computers. This distinctiveness, when applied across the many forms of media used by the NPS, contributed subtly but effectively to the team's overall goal to "establish a unique organizational identity that could be expressed through the full range of communication materials used by the National Park Service."

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