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Road signs and Irish Language



  • Registered Users Posts: 1,231 ✭✭✭ D.L.R.

    No, Republic's green signage is a much brighter shade than the UK. Nothing to do with age.

  • Registered Users Posts: 14,533 ✭✭✭✭ gormdubhgorm

    To me the blue background with White or yellow writing is much clearer especially in the dark. Than the green background ones.

    I just realised when I did a basic web design course years ago. There was emphasis on colour schemes and font that go well together, reams of examples. So it should be known to the signage designers?? What are they at?

    Plus I remember the colour scheme, I used blue background with white and a bit of yellow!

    The snooker score graphic uses a blue / white / yellow colour scheme for the world championship- very clear. The colours compliment each other.


    As regards the Irish language bit for the longer place names As Gaeilge- wouldn’t it make sense to come up with standardised abbreviations instead, so it looks less cluttered?

    Let’s be honest at times some Irish place names are a bit on the long side / plus nothing like the English version. Compromise could be reached by abbreviations.

  • Registered Users Posts: 482 ✭✭ KrisW1001

    I just realised when I did a basic web design course years ago. There was emphasis on colour schemes and font that go well together, reams of examples. So it should be known to the signage designers?? What are they at?

    Plus I remember the colour scheme, I used blue background with white and a bit of yellow!

    Signage uses exactly the same general rules: contrast, use of negative and positive space, eye-leading, but it has a different purpose, so emphasis is different.

    The purpose of a website is to hold the reader’s attention for as long as possible, so that they read the content. The device displaying the site emits light, so there’s no need to worry about legibility in different light levels, or weather conditions, and viewing distance is constant (although I’ll go way off topic if I start talking about the evils of designing mobile-device interfaces based on text that looks the right size on a desktop monitor)

    The purpose of a sign is the opposite: impart the information quickly so that the driver can go back to watching the road. A sign also has to be legible from different distances, in rain or clear weather, by daylight or by reflected headlights. These all put serious limitations on what you can do on the sign surface.

    Colour was omitted from the UK motorway signage by design (and we adopted their signage), as it also was from the German Autobahn signage that inspired it. Coloured text is a eye-magnet, and for signs that had to be read at high speed, it was found to slow down recognition, not help. Remember that when the UK’s motorway signage was designed, there was no upper speed limit in the UK - first signs were done in 1958, the the 70 mph limit came in in 1965/66.

    Signage is a system, not a collection of unique designs. If there’s a conflict between looking pretty and being logically consistent with other parts of the system, then consistent wins every time. The signs we have here in Ireland often fail on both fronts, but when that happens, the key problem isn’t that they’re not pretty, it’s that they’re not consistent: it is sometimes more difficult to apply patterns that you have learned from seeing one category of signs (e.g., advance direction signs) to interpreting another class of sign (e.g., motorway gantries).

    I consider the UK road signage system to be the best in use today because it manages the difficult task of being both consistent and aesthetically pleasing. The UK system still has odd areas (motorway gantries, again; or the over-use of complex diagrammatic signs that look cool but are harder to understand), but it’s superior to the other options Ireland had to choose from in the 1970s (Germany or the USA). Of course we could have just rolled our own, but we’re a small country, and the cost of doing things right is considerable... and we wouldn’t have spent that cost.

    @D.L.R. It is entirely true that old UK signs were a darker shade of green than the new ones are: anything before the mid 1980s used reflective paint in a deep green colour, newer signs use a mid-green prismatic material, and the newest ones are brighter again. Even where you see newer signs beside 10-year-old ones, the newer ones are more reflective.

    You make it sound like the UK has signs that are all one uniform shade of green, and that is not true (it’s not true in Ireland either). Leaving aside that there are four independent agencies managing road signage in the UK, each with their own local standards, each local authority then sources signs from different manufacturers, so there can be a fairly wide variation in colour across the country. What part of the UK are you comparing with Ireland?

  • Registered Users Posts: 21 EthanL13

    Hmmm, then it doesn't really make much sense to me. If it means they should go that way, that means the other way has a 5t limit/prohibition? In which case, it would be better to highlight that instead.


    For the "redesigns", I reduced the spacing between each set of destinations (I found it was too large on the others I made). I know the fadas need some work, I made them myself since Transport does not have support for them. Middle sign is a bit too yellow. Also, I used "proper" brackets for the supplementary route number (N86), as opposed to ones from Motorway (as Ireland currently uses).

  • Registered Users Posts: 2,249 ✭✭✭ hans aus dtschl

    I prefer the right. Some nice improvements there over the current standard, for me. The italics is a biggest issue. I find it much easier to read the right hand sign than the left. Cill Airne really stands out to me as "less legible" and "more legible".

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  • Registered Users Posts: 1,233 ✭✭✭ TheW1zard

    The BLOCK CAPITALS stand out when driving at speed

  • Registered Users Posts: 3,226 ✭✭✭ chewed

    Personally, I prefer the middle one. I find having both English and Irish in the same font, size and colour really confusing.

  • Registered Users Posts: 21 EthanL13

    That's the general impression, though it's false. In fact, especially with our use of Transport Heavy instead of Transport Medium, it's harder to read than lowercase letters, particularly at night.

    Russia's bilingual signs are in all-caps. Which would stand out more, and which would be more legible, at 110km/h?

    It might stand out among lowercase letters, but then if everything's in capitals how much does it stand out then? The text all appears as illegible rectangles. And even if capitals were to be used, what would happen to the Irish text? Have that capitalised too?

    Post edited by EthanL13 on

  • Registered Users Posts: 163 ✭✭ Fishdoodle

    I wonder if, rather than having the text aligned to the left, whether having it centred would make any difference with clarity? -For ex. with yellow & white text (example two) - would need to extend the sign to accommodate the junction symbols , though that might look even better?

    There are variations to the letter ‘a’ in your examples - the closed ‘a’ looks better I think 🙂

    Interesting designs you created- fair plé to ya!

  • Registered Users Posts: 8,042 ✭✭✭ Danno

    Use this font for the Irish: Gaeilge Font |

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  • Registered Users Posts: 2,249 ✭✭✭ hans aus dtschl

    It's a nice font but the serif on it would make it slower to read.

    I agree with people that say that the CAPITALS in our current signs give the impression of being easier to read but I think that Camel Case is easier for people to read at speed.

  • Registered Users Posts: 2,249 ✭✭✭ hans aus dtschl

    Yep I liked the colours. The only reason I didn't prefer that is because the yellow is earmarked for the primary details or critical information. But I definitely find it easiest to read.

  • Registered Users Posts: 482 ✭✭ KrisW1001


    That's the general impression, though it's false.

    You’re very confident of that statement - far more so than people who have had to make those decisions. There’s a trend away from mixed-case lettering from the 1970s onwards, so it’s not as clear-cut as you suggest. France modernised its signage very late - around the same time we did - and it adopted capital letters for its autoroute signage on the basis of research that suggested the higher X-height of using capitals outweighed the information carried by word shape.

    Mixed-case has higher legibility for words, but names are not words. (This is why I particularly dislike the USA’s signage, which uses mixed-case for destinations, and all-caps for instructions)

  • Registered Users Posts: 21 EthanL13

    Having it centred is a must for gantry signs, that's for sure. Our current practice of aligning all destinations to the left and then centring each set of destinations based on whichever place name is longest is bizarre. However aside from these signs (and others, such as place name signs and other information signs), I don't think centring them will look all that well.

    As for the 'a', personally I think the use of the "double storey a" (a) rather than the "single storey a" (ɑ) is better, since it is easier to distinguish from the letter o. In Europe, only Drogowskaz (Polish font) and Tratex (Swedish font) also make use of single storey a's (and they're not exactly the best typefaces).

    If a "sans serif" version was available, I could maybe try it (I did have a look but the ones I found weren't great). But it would look odd having two separate fonts.

    You’re very confident of that statement - far more so than people who have had to make those decisions.

    @KrisW1001 I thought it was a well-known fact?

  • Registered Users Posts: 163 ✭✭ Fishdoodle

    👍 Could the route number be on the arrows like in this sign? …might space things out a bit more. Some of the signs in France have the route numbers above the signs also.

  • Registered Users Posts: 482 ✭✭ KrisW1001

    @EthanL13 “well known facts” are often not facts at all.

    As I understand it, there are two advantages to using capitals for names: first, you get a larger X-height for a given line height, and second, the capital alphabet has fewer lookalikes than the lowercase (consider i / l / t; t / f ; h / b; e / a; rn / m ).

  • Registered Users Posts: 3,226 ✭✭✭ chewed

    Based on @EthanL13's concept designs, what about keeping the English names capitalized? The fact that the Irish is not italicized makes it so much easier to read in my opinion.

  • Registered Users Posts: 2,957 ✭✭✭ Furze99

    The left hand example is clearly most preferable of the three imho. For non Gaeltacht areas i.e. 98% of the state. The commonly used & understood names for the towns are easily read, the road labeling is clearly separated, the italicised Irish form is there for those who wish to see it.

    Of course it would fall foul of O'Cuiv's Official Langauages Act but that's a fault of said Act and Constitution. What can sign designers do when their hands are tied by green eyed pretension?

  • Registered Users Posts: 26,897 ✭✭✭✭ Hotblack Desiato

    I agree that the OLA is utter nonsense but it doesn't apply to road signs, thankfully.*

    @EthanL13 , any particular reason you changed KILLORGLIN to Killorglan?

    • Although there are plenty of examples where "WRONG WAY TURN BACK" signs on sliproads have only Irish text on one side of the road - who is most likely to be driving on the wrong side of the road? Tourists. To make it worse, the Irish-only sign is placed on the right-hand side where a right-driving tourist will be used to looking for signs. Language-tokenism comes before safety.

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  • Registered Users Posts: 19,122 ✭✭✭✭ Strumms

    Good point, language tokenism is exactly it...

  • Registered Users Posts: 3,226 ✭✭✭ chewed

    Is it just me, but I find the "Stay in Lane" road markings really confusing on some of our roads (e.g. M50/M1). On the road it's written as....




  • Registered Users Posts: 482 ✭✭ KrisW1001

    “Plenty of examples?” Can’t think of any with Irish only.

    Here, meanwhile is an example, taken at random, of the standard arrangement that’s used for rural motorway junctions.

    There are five separate indications here that you’re going the wrong way:

    • Solid line across the road
    • International standard “No Entry” sign
    • Yield marking against your direction of travel
    • “Turn back/ no-forward / Cas ar Ais” sign boards.
    • Arrrow against you painted on road ahead

    The design of the roundabout itself also makes it awkward to make this turn (you have to drive on the right all around it, or you end up needing to make a nasty sharp left.

    In short, you could write “watermelons” on the signboard, and it would not make much difference to comprehension.

    But yeah, get het up about Irish...

  • Registered Users Posts: 26,897 ✭✭✭✭ Hotblack Desiato

    I was talking about the older "WRONG WAY TURN BACK" signs with no symbol. And older junctions may not be as well designed as that one. Plenty where you enter a slip road from a T-junction or crossroads not a roundabout, nothing to make a wrong turn "difficult" there.

    A sign is there to convey information, a warning sign with Irish text only utterly fails at that task so why have the sign at all in that case?

  • Registered Users Posts: 23,323 ✭✭✭✭ Peregrinus

    Even if mentally driving on the right, isn't a person going the wrong way on a slip road to enter the main road going to be looking to the left? That's where the traffic into which they expect to merge will be.

  • Registered Users Posts: 482 ✭✭ KrisW1001

    @Peregrinus - if they were already driving on the right-hand side of the road up to that point, there’s a danger of joining on the opposite carriageway as it looks like the more gentle curve “on” (even though it’s actually the off ramp). It’s mainly a problem of rural motorways - in more built-up areas, the traffic on the roads leading up to the junction keeps drivers on the proper side of the road.

    (These signs are on the junctions for the N40 South Ring Road, a road I have never seen empty)

    TII has a policy of putting those yellow “Drive on Left” signs up around popular tourist spots: people are more likely to make the mistake after a long period of not driving.

    There’s also a problem when coming off a motorway and re-joining two-way traffic, but our junction designs at off-ramps make it much harder to end up on the wrong side of the road on leaving a divided highway than in some other places I’ve been.

    I was talking about the older "WRONG WAY TURN BACK" signs with no symbol. 

    And I’m saying they’ve been replaced, years ago. Even when they were still used, I have never seen an example of only the Irish version present on a sign. If you can show me one, we can continue to discuss whether or not it’s a good idea for it to exist, but until it’s proven to exist, there’s no point, really.

  • Registered Users Posts: 2,249 ✭✭✭ hans aus dtschl

    And yet I have met oncoming traffic on the N40 one multiple occasions. And it is SCARY when it happens, because their speed plus your speed makes it all very fast.

  • Registered Users Posts: 2,249 ✭✭✭ hans aus dtschl

    The argument that "Wrong Way Turn Back" is more relevant than "Cas Ar Ais" signs because "foreigners" doesn't massively stack up. It's not always for foreigners, it's often for confused Irish people.

    The ones around the airport are ...quite logically.... in French, German, etc. Though I'm not sure anyone gets overly concerned about those examples of multilinguality,

  • Registered Users Posts: 482 ✭✭ KrisW1001

    The ones around the airport are ...quite logically.... in French, German, etc. Though I'm not sure anyone gets overly concerned about those examples of multilinguality,

    Cork Airport designed its own road signage when the airport was extended in the 2000's. It was all bad, and has mostly been replaced with proper designs since, but the very worst example was the small sign just at the exit that read:

    • Drive on left
    • Conduire à droite
    • Links fahren

    It was patched a month later, but has now been replaced with the standard yellow “ATTENTION/ACHTUNG!" sign

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  • Registered Users Posts: 2,249 ✭✭✭ hans aus dtschl

    A great example was the one just before the Kinsale Road Roundabout at the bottom of the hill with "conduire a gauche" and "links fahren" also. I always thought, if they'd made it that far on the wrong side of the road, they might as well continue!