Archive for the PDX Street Blades Category

[#AddressNerd] Fractional Blocks In The Portland Street Blade 2.0 Design

Posted in PDX Street Blades, Portland Street Blades, Street Blade Gallery on June 6, 2014 by Samuel John Klein Portlandiensis
While cities try to be planned in even chunks, life isn’t perfect. The ideal is digital; the reality, analog. Streets oft-times happen where they happen.

A good example of this is the grid layout of Salt Lake City, where the address block is a standard thing and the street can concievably land anywhere in that block. For example, a two standard streets, one the 35th and the next the 36th, would be named 3500 South and 3600 South. A street about 1/3 of the way between 3500 South and 3600 South might be named 3530 South. One eight-tenths of the way could be named 3580 South.

On this plan addresses are childs’ play to augur in on. As you travel north or south on any street that would cross these, you just glance right or left to see how the addresses are running. A bit dry, perhaps; an address like 455 West 3530 South is mathematically exciting but literarily dull. But Portland’s signage acts just like this. Check this blade fro SW Broadway near PSU that I snapped some time ago. The tab reads 700. SW Broadway is the 7th block west of the river in Downtown. The blade is telling you not that the block down the SW Broadway face is 700, but that you are either entering or leaving the 700 block of whatever cross street you’re on. As in SLC, the crossing-street system assumes you don’t need to be reminded what street you’re on, but you do want to know how far up or down the street you’re on without having to crane your neck left or right and hope to see the number as you go past.

If SW Broadway were a street in SLC, it would be South 700 West. 

I frame the concept thusly because it sets the stage for this next picture; the intersection of NE Pacific Street and NE Holladay Court.

The intersection of these two streets do not happen on an even address block point, and the new way of street-blading Portland attempts to address this. As someone who loves precision in such things, I’m kind of over the moon here. A bit of commentary perforce: in raw terms, the intersection of NE Pacific Street and NE Holladay Court is of two streets that are defined as east-west runners. They therefore have very similar blockface numbers. However! One has to remember that when you look at that block index, you’re not looking at the the address on the street that is named but the address on the street you’re already on that’s defined by the point of the crossing street. Thus, NE Pacific Street cuts across NE Holladay Court at approximately 13050 NE Holladay Court; NE Holladay Court intersects NE Pacific Street at the address of 13020 NE Pacific Street.

If that weren’t bewildering enough, this blade set might make you cross your eyes:

This is a few hundred feet back, where Holladay Street bends to become Holladay Court. Not exactly an intersection as one might think about it, until one thinks about it: it’s an intersection, just one where a street name changes. Each block index reads 13000; this intersection is where the 13000 block begins and ends on either street.

It’s a little challenging to get used to if you’re a new Portlander; the only other Willamette Valley city I know that does it this way is McMinnville. Eventually, it’ll click, and once it does, it’ll seem like the most organic and natural thing … as long as you start with the idea that you already know what street you’re on, and this tells you what’s coming and going as you travel.

And the font? That’s Clearview, baby. Looks good to me!


[pdx] New Street Blades – SE 122nd and Pardee

Posted in PDX Street Blades, Street Blade Gallery on April 4, 2010 by Samuel John Klein Portlandiensis

Okay, false alarm there. It looked like Flock would post. Fooled me again.

To show the world I’m not completely hung up here, here’s two pictures from a recent photo safari. The new Type 3 blades, at SE 122nd Avenue and Pardee Street – one block south of the light at Holgate.

The 122nd there on this blade looks a little stretched out in the altitudinal direction.

Very readable, very pleasant on the eye. Once again and not for the last time, kudos to the designer of these blades. Very nice looking.

[liff] Gang Aft Agley – César E. Chávez Blvd Pix To Come Tomorrow

Posted in liff in PDX, pdx, PDX Street Blades, Sign Design, Street Blade Gallery, typography on January 29, 2010 by Samuel John Klein Portlandiensis
2311.As I tweeted and announced on @SJPKDX and earlier today:

They’re hanging the first Cesar E. Chavez Blvd sign today, at the corner of CEC/39th and SE Stephens Street in Portland. I’m planning on being there with a camera to get the first pictures on line – if possible.

As it turned out, not possible. Such is the gentle tyranny of having a third-shift job in 10-hour shifts. I did get straight home, straight to bed, and didn’t wake up until after 1 pm. Sic transit gloria.

But I did get a report from KGW-TV to share with y’alls. Here it is:

It gives you a good idea of what the overhead signs look like, and they most likely look a great deal like the street-level blades.

Of particular and delightful interest is the accent marks over the vowels e in César and a in Chávez. In Spanish, these indicate which syllable is to be stressed and, I understand, only occurs over the vowel. Presumably, this is why we pronounce the name SAY-sar SHA-vez instead of say-SAR cha-VEZ. What’s delightful about it is that, as Ben from Seattle tweeted at me, they don’t have those on Seattle’s street blades – and I’ve always felt Seattle’s were a bit more sophisticated than Portland’s.

Well, that’s the genius of Clearview. FHWA sign fonts apparently don’t have this standard.

I better stop writing or I’ll have nothing to accompany the pix with. Tomorrow morning, when I’m on my way home from that third-shift job, I’ll trip on down to 39th/CEC Blvd and get some pics for the files which I will perforce share here, and the taking of which will be unencumbered by having to rush through Friday traffic and not getting enough shut-eye.

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[Address_Nerd] New Portland Street Blades Evolve, and More Clearview Type

Posted in Address Nerd, Burnside St, Clearview, Halsey St, PDX Street Blades, Sign Design, Street Blade Gallery, typography on January 24, 2010 by Samuel John Klein Portlandiensis
2306.We haven’t had the chance to go on sign safari for a long time, the only explanation being It’s Complicated. But we finally have bagged some big game, and I’m actually delighted to say that the design of the next generation of Portland street blades is evolving in attractive and designerly ways that can only imbue the heart of an Address Nerd with glee.

I first saw this example of design at the corner of E Burnside and SE 103rd Avenue, in the Russellville area of outer eastside Portland. But I’m getting ahead of myself. The first chance I got to actually snap a picture is here, and E Burnside and NE 68th Avenue, which is just down from the brow of the hill where you shunt off Burnside via SE Gilham Avenue to get to Thorburn Street and downtown Montavilla:

This blade is on the south side of E Burnside; the blade reads NE 68th Av because the street only extends north of Burnside at that point. A close look at both blades reveals a designerly concept known as hierarchy at work:

Note the directional and the generic are the same size and weight. The specific (“Burnside”) stands out; if you’re glancing at any speed, you’ll take in that you’re on Burnside in a flash.

Same as the named-blade, the numbered blade shows the same sense of hierarchy. Note also that on both blades the baseline is shared between the big letterforms and the small letterforms – and the ordinal, the “th” on 68th, now is rid of the awkward capital letter we saw on the sign at SE 47th and Hawthorne Blvd. Compare:

Also, the letterspacing overall is exactly what it should be – everything lives comfortably on the blade, nothing’s crowding yet everything has room to breath. Likey? You bet! Notice also the lack of a white margin all around. I liked the white margin at first, but the lack of same is actually an improvement.

I’m really starting to hope the blades are evolving in that direction.

Also sighted: This set at NE 42nd and Halsey, directly across from the TriMet Hollywood Transit Center/MAX station, and on the same block as the Hollywood Trader Joe’s Market:

We now have a very clear idea of how the blade sets will look when mounted as a corner assembly. Particularly attractive is the way the block face number now lives comfortably in the area above the street generic abbreviation – on the previous blade versions the block number sat in the upper left corner, awkwardly and a bit uncomfortably – as above, the letterspacing and leading is immaculate and exactly appropriate.

It’s not just the street blades that are getting the Clearview treatment. Directional signs that have sprung up around the Hollywood business district also use it. Here’s one directly adjacent to the above blades:

That’s Clearview there, spelling out the name Tillamook St. The harm to letterspacing for letterforms this big is pair-to-pair kerning, and I can find little fault with the job done here. Someone’s really paying strict attention, and bravo!

Another thing you’ll find in the Hollywood district is new signs directing you to the Banfield Freeway from the north side. These too are in Clearview, but the font is all caps (words like EAST, WEST, above the I-84 shield on the overhead signs coming down from Sandy Blvd) so it might not be immediately evident, but the trained eye will see. I was unable to get a snap this time around, but we’ll return there maybe soon.

Finally to cap all this off, is the place I first saw the new evolution. SE 103rd Avenue and East Burnside anchor a new development which is part of the old Russellville nabe. You have to be going eastbound on Burnside to see this. as east of East 99th Avenue, you have the MAX making this old road a necessarily divided highway, but as can probably be seen from the eastbound E 102nd Avenue MAX platform, is this:

Naturally, that caught my attention immeds, for being both the same and different from the street blades we’ve been assaying for the past half year (or longer?). Here’s the one for 103rd Avenue:

And here’s the one for E. Burnside Street. Nota Bene the block face in the upper right corner here: it’s the numeral 1.

Burnside Street, as nobody needs be told, is the address baseline; going east and west from the Willamette River’s origin, the lowest possible addresses on crossing avenues will be found here, and the block index is the lowest address possible on the block you’re leaving (or entering, depending on the direction of travel). We note that the blade for Burnside at NE 68th Ave actually has no block index, and my guess is that since it’s on the south side of the street and 68th does not have a block at that point, you wont be leaving or entering any block at that point (at least without major damage to your car, major dismay on the part of a property owner, and a significant divot in the side of Mount Tabor). By this logic, I’d expect the blade on the north side of NE 68th and E Burnside to have a “1” on the corner of the Burnside blade – when it does finally go up, of course.

A particularly good day to be an Address Nerd, as well as a typographer. We feel fulfilled.

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