Interstate (typeface)

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Category Sans-serif
Designer(s) Tobias Frere-Jones
Foundry Font Bureau
Date released 1993–1995

Interstate is a digital typeface designed by Tobias Frere-Jones in the period 1993–1999, and licensed by Font Bureau. The typeface is based on style type E of the FHWA Series fonts, a signage alphabet drawn for the United States Federal Highway Administration by Dr. Theodore W. Forbes in 1949.[1]

Frere-Jones' Interstate typeface, while optimal for signage, has refinements making it suitable for text setting in print and on-screen, and gained popularity as such in the 1990s. Due to its wide spacing, it is best suited for display usage in print, but Frere-Jones later designed another signage typeface, Whitney, published by Hoefler & Frere-Jones, that bears a resemblance to its ancestor while being less flamboyant and more economical for general print usage, in body copy or headlines.

The terminals of ascending and descending strokes are cut at an angle to the stroke (see lowercase t, and l), and on curved strokes (see lowercase e and s), terminals are drawn at a 90° angle to the stroke, positioning them at an angle to the baseline. Counters are open, even in the bold and bold condensed weights, further contributing to legibility. Punctuation is based on a rectangular shape, while official FHWA punctuation is based on a circular shape.

The font is used by a number of large organizations in their logotype and branding materials. Notable examples include Citigroup, Sesame Street, Sainsbury's Supermarkets, recent signage for Southwest Airlines, Invesco Perpetual, UK rail company c2c; Ealing, Hammersmith and West London College; Lamborghini; Trinity College London; Cognizant; and CISV International. In May 2008, Ernst & Young adopted the use of Interstate in marketing materials and reports as part of a new global visual identity.

In 2004, the Weather Channel started using the fonts on-air and on IntelliStar systems. It was added to TWC's WeatherSTAR XL in a graphical update in 2005. It was mainly retired in 2008, for Helvetica Neue and Akzidenz-Grotesk; however, the font continued to be used on IntelliStar systems until November 2013, as part of a rebranding.

In November 2006, the US Army launched its Army Strong ad campaign, utilising Interstate as its primary typeface for all ad material.

The 2010 video game GoldenEye 007 uses Interstate Light Condensed for all in-game text.

The typeface is used on the Global Television Network for its on-air newscasts and general branding.


  • Fiedl, Frederich, Nicholas Ott and Bernard Stein. Typography: An Encyclopedic Survey of Type Design and Techniques Through History. Black Dog & Leventhal: 1998. ISBN 1-57912-023-7.
  • Haley, Allen. Type: Hot Designers Make Cool Fonts. Rockport Publishers Inc, Gloucester; 1998. ISBN 1-56496-317-9
  • Macmillan, Neil. An A–Z of Type Designers. Yale University Press: 2006. ISBN 0-300-11151-7.

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