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

Emily Pilloton’s Design Process

This was originally published on my first, deprecated website.

Let’s face it. Education is important as hell.

Enter Emily Pilloton and Project H. They are eager to bring design education to kids in Bertie County, North Carolina. These guys are amazing, and they work on some really cool projects that can be seen on their flickr photostream, here. My mother is a teacher. So, when I see creatives working on something that not only challenges the current educational paradigm and empowers design, I get a little excited.

Project H's Design Process

Emily Pilloton’s Design Process is not playing around.

Emily Pilloton, is a designer, a teacher, and an engineer. She is hell-bent on changing education in the U.S. and abroad. Her weapon of choice, the iterative process. Her vision, has helped children understand problem solving is highly important. It has effectively, benefitted the kids, and the surrounding town of Bertie as well.

Re-designing a school system can be troublesome. Working in tandem with a avant-garde superintendent, and a dying town set on revamping itself. They set their goals on four simple words:

  1. Humanity
  2. Habitats
  3. Health
  4. Happiness

Students work on developing ideas revolving around these four pillars to improve the town and schools while learning everyday mathematics, reading skills, etc. Not surprisingly, the curriculum hinges on the final examination. Which typically involves re-appropriating an old building, or building a more effective chicken coop design.

For more information head over to Project H

Make sure to check out here compelling TED Talk too.

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