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The Tragedy of Design that is the New Jersey Turnpike Logo.

Updated: Apr 20, 2020

During a particularly long drive home the other night I found myself on the New Jersey Turnpike for an extended amount of time and during the seemingly eternal stretch of bland landscape I found myself meticulously studying the signs I passed. This was, after all, the only interesting thing to do as the music selection dwindled, passengers fell asleep, and my mind seemed to give up entirely on the idea of entertainment. But as I studied the signs, trying to figure out where I was or occasionally chuckling at a funny town name, I took a real look at the Turnpike's logo for the first time and just like that, my artist's brain was firing once again.

My first question was, what designer pedaled out this pile of garbage? Road signs and symbols are notoriously sleek and simple, something that's recognizable singularly and as a part of a group, but this is just a mass of letters with no particular order. We've got three totally different fonts, the "TP" has an overlap for no reason, "N" and "J" are out of line and on opposite sides of the sign, and "Turnpike" is spelled out even though it already exists through the abbreviation "TP" which the word is literally dissecting. If you read this sign in order of abbreviated and full words from left to right it reads, "New Turn Pike Turnpike Jersey." What happened when this was being made? Who was hired to do this? I assume government design is like any other government funded project in that there's a lot of money in it. So, by that logic, I have to assume someone made a lot of money on this pile of hot garbage.

Aside from the seemingly senseless use of text in this design what is the shape? It looks like step one in a diagram of how to make a paper airplane. It's just a rectangle with two of the corners cut off. I researched other turnpike and parkway signs and they're all generally the same; recognizable shapes like circles or rectangles, the name of the road in a clear font, and sometimes a recognizable symbol like the shape of the state or Pennsylvania's Keystone. No other New Jersey sign or logo uses anything like this so I'm just perplexed as to who thought this was an acceptable looking logo. This isn't some random back road that's seen by a small sample of locals, this is a major stretch of road that's important not only to commuters, but to a long standing series of cultural references.

Let's be real here for a second, I feel like I can level with you all, I'm no authority in graphic design and I'll never claim to be. But it doesn't take a brilliant designer to recognize that this is just a random composition of non-sense. I would love to have someone explain to me why this sign is the way that it is because I truly cannot fathom a way in which there's any logic behind this. The longer I stare at this picture the less I understand it and the more questions I have.

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