Geometric sans lettering used on many US Post Office buildings

Well gang, I've searched high and low and I cannot seem to find any definitive ID for the lettering used on many US Post Office buildings . . . It is too simple to be Bernhard Gothic and Gotham doesn't have the angular tilting at the end of the strokes like the Cap E shows . . . I've seen this face on many post offices throughout the US but have no idea what it started its life as . . .

But I'm certain it's not Neutra, Gotham or Bernhard Modern . . . Any ID or history is appreciated!

Best,
Stuart :D

Comments

BTW, in the close but no cigar category, it definitely feels like it could be a cousin to Kabel: http://www.myfonts.com/fonts/itc/kabel/

Stuart :D

Similar to Toronto Subway...

It's possible that it those letters do not correspond to any true typeface, in the traditional sense of the term. But Gotham and Neutraface were both modeled on existing examples of custom signage such as this. They might be as close as you can reasonably expect to get.

Those same letters are on the post office near me and many others I have seen over the years. Knowing how the government works, my guess would be that some point perhaps in the 1950s, a bid request went out for signage letters and the low bidder got the job. Although the low crossbar on the H signifies a Neutraface model, my guess would be that "Mr Lowbidder" had a mixed model of Futura, Neutraface, and Kable when he built his moulds to create the signs. There were also some movie marquee letters similar to that and maybe someone in that field had the metalurgical skills to put together a cheap way to make sign letters for the U.S. Govt. Plenty of other government offices including USDA have used the same letters. Probably after the initial contract, the post office sent the completed letters out for bid to match the originals with the bid and continued doing that over the years. The letters could have evolved slightly with each new contractor who succeeded "Mr Lowbidder" from then on. Your answer probably lies at the bottom of an old filing cabinet in the office of a government procurement specialist long since dead.

ChrisL

When I went on one of Paul Shaw's TDC New York type walks, Paul explained that a lot of inscriptions on buildings and buildings signs were based on books of alphabets for architects. These were an independent source for lettering, and the reason for a similarity in some old signs around New York, signs which were the basis or inspiration for Gotham. It may be that some of the same factors are involved in the letters you show.

>Your answer probably lies at the bottom of an old filing cabinet in the office of a government procurement specialist long since dead.

The USPS building standard is Handbook AS-503, available as a PDF, but the section on exterior signage (p. 495) doesn't mention fonts. It does refer to the "Standard Detail Library for illustrations and dimensional information regarding each sign component." I can't find a free copy of the SDL on the web; it looks like it has to be purchased on CD for US$25, which is a little beyond my casual interest level.

"I can’t find a free copy of the SDL on the web; it looks like it has to be purchased on CD for US$25, which is a little beyond my casual interest level."

LOL! Not that I blame you since SDL doesn't sound like the most exciting reading on earth :-)

ChrisL

Thanks to all for the input! I would think there has to be a single source because no matter where I've gone in the country, I've seen the same lettering on the outside of 60s looking post offices.

I was able to find the Handbook but it only featured guidelines on in office display boards and vinyl on windows and only referred to the type as block lettering.

This is indeed becoming a mystery that I hope to find answers to . . . It would seem that having a clear path to highway and national park signage that perhaps the most documented national institution would also have information about the lettering on the outside of their facilities.

Stuart :D

Well, I just pounded the Flicker US Post Offices photo pool and found some interesting things . . .

There is a thin, a regular, and a heavy weight of this type and at some point I can only assume in the late 70s or early 80s that it was replaced with Helvetica so any books about this lettering on modern day post offices wouldn't be helpful.

Additionally, there seems to have been a condensed weight that was used on federal and public works buildings . . .

Stuart :D

Whatever was used, I'm fairly certain it was never digitized.

Whatever was used, I’m fairly certain it was never digitized.

Sounds like a challenge! ;^)

Already on it :D

So Stuart, are you saying "the font in in the mail"? :-)

ChrisL

Domestic Priority Baby!

:D

> no matter where I’ve gone in the country, I’ve seen the same lettering on the outside of 60s looking post offices.

I've seen a variety, actually. It's always on the geometric sans side, but there must have been different suppliers throughout the years because I can think of at least 5 variations.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/stewf/sets/72157603592705592/
http://typophile.com/node/40502

An image of a work in progress from another thread . . .

Hmmm, nice work Stuart. I thought the R proportions looked weird, but I see that was how the lettering was (in fact you made it a bit more 'normal'). If it stays this way, that would be my earmark for this, to distinguish it in my mind from Kabel, in the U.C.

Is it my eyes, or is the S tipped to the right a bit? (The building letters are inconsistent in regard to tilt -- perhaps sloppy fastening?)

- Mike Yanega

Funny thing about that S, it really does look like that, I'll likely add a few versions of it in the final . . .

:D