The National Park Typeface


From the website:

I saw those familiar words. Set “National Park Service, United States Department of the Interior” — style. I wondered if it actually was a typeface or “font” that anyone could download and use? Do park rangers have this as a typeface on their computers to set in their word docs, pdfs and power point slides?

I had a sketchbook with me and took some rubbings of the letterforms and asked my friend Miles Barger, the Visual Information Specialist for Rocky, if he had the typeface. He asked the sign shop. No one has it? Turns out it isn’t a typeface at all but a system of paths, points and curves that a router follows.

The router’s “bit” follows the path 
and gives the letters its stroke 
weight or thickness only when engraving a sign. 

It doesn’t really exist as a typeface unless a sign is made.

So my design colleague, Andrea Herstowski, students Chloe Hubler and Jenny O’Grady, NPS Ranger Miles Barger and myself decided to make this router typeface a thing. 

Our National Parks belong to the people, so this typeface should too.

It’s kind of mind-blowing that the National Park service doesn’t have it’s own typeface. I love that most of these parks probably made their signage on-site with whatever tools they have on hand. Which, is probably, a drill press table.

Which, when you think about it, is a gift. A gift of accidental identity. An identity sculpted by cutting costs, and working around year-over-year budget cuts. Anything requiring a tool more complex than a drill press to make an inscription in wood is unthinkable, but remarkably stable and easy to do as-is without fancy adjustments or jigs.

Jeremy Shellhorn, the lead of this project, runs the Designing Outside Studio whose mission is help design students “think and make more creatively”:

Our studio loves to be outdoors, out of the classroom and into natural places that challenge us to design, think and make in new ways. We realize the design process is a powerful tool for making things better, visualizing what if, and creating change.

As our parks and public spaces face threats to their existence and challenges in broadening public support and connecting visitors to memorable and meaningful learning & recreational experiences; we as a studio (students and faculty) look to find ways in which to collaborate with organizations, parks, rangers and fellow outdoors-folk to find ways to connect people with the natural world. 

Incredible. I love it. We need more of this kind of thinking and teaching. Learn more about the Designing Outside Studio here. Want the typeface? head to the homepage here, or visit

This Old House

Thoughts on carpentry, my grandfathers craft and This Old House.

My grandfather is an excellent carpenter. Growing up, he built several bookshelves for me over the years. He also built tables, shelving, and chairs. He even built for my childhood elementary school. My siblings, cousins and relatives all have furniture designed and built by him. He’s a real pro, and so humble about his abilities.

I don’t have any of my grandfather’s handiwork to share today, but I do want to share a clip from one of his favorite shows, This Old House. Bob Villa and Bob Ryley show how to go about building a simple staircase. They employ such simple tricks. I love it.

I remember spending summers at my grandparent’s house, complaining that this show was so incredibly boring. Surely something else was on the TV in the middle of the day at 1pm. Thinking back, it was likely either soaps, or This Old House. Oh, the life of a 3rd-grader on summer break.

I regret not spending more time in the garage with my grandad. We built a few things together for sure, and we definitely spent way too many hours working on cars (RIP 1991 Geo Prizm) while I was in high school. Those tales will be for another day I think. I look forward to spending my retired years, taking up the mantle and building a few bookshelves of my own for the ones that I love too.

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