Soren Frantz / Photo Editor

“Going wherever the flow of the journey [took me], there were no deadlines and a lot of drifting,” said Professor Randall Hoyt regarding his sabbatical research trip last semester. 

On February 26, Hoyt held a lecture in the Thorne-Sagendorph Art Gallery titled “The Standard Alphabet,” an overview of his sabbatical research from the previous semester. The topic of research was the origins of the Federal Highway Administration Standard Alphabet, aka the font used on road signs. 

“I designed a board game about highway traffic called ‘Road Hog,’ so I’ve been interested and studying traffic for awhile,” said Hoyt. “Along with that, I’m interested in traffic patterns and traffic behavior, and I wanted to do something related to my interest that allowed me to travel and find something that’s everywhere.”

Hoyt, an associate professor of graphic design, said, “I’m a graphic designer and I teach typography and doing the typography is an extension of what I teach. If you put typography and traffic together, you get road signs.” 

Sydney Broughton, a junior who attended the lecture, said, “I actually came and saw the staff show. I think it’s interesting to see something so simple you see everyday can be so fascinating. The fact that you can do a project on street signs shows there’s so many things people are into.” 

Hoyt drove through 49 states and took over 35,000 photos of road signs. He went to many colleges and visited many institutions including Texas A&M, the United States Department of Transportation and the United States National Archive, talking to many experts about the history of the Standard Alphabet  along the way. 

Hoyt traced the origins back to the when highways were just beginning and found that it was not designed by graphic designers or typographers but by psychologists who studied human reaction time and human responses. 

When asked which state was his favorite to visit, Hoyt said, “It’s tough to pick a favorite state, but Idaho was a big surprise. There’s like five different states in Idaho and [it] has a lot of features like plains, hot springs and such. I spent five days in Idaho. It was just beautiful. Alaska’s also just magnificent.” 

Hoyt travelled around with his companion, Peggy, in a van and went through many parts on the United States, going as far as Anchorage, Alaska, and even exploring abandoned highway tunnels, which Hoyt noted “had members of the Menonite church riding their bicycles and singing.” Hoyt said, “It was like entering the gates of heaven. I think the best part about the trip, besides hanging out with Peggy, was not having an agenda and going wherever the flow of the journey took me.” 

Junior Giovanna Micciche said, “I thought [Hoyt’s lecture] was informative. I think it’s awesome to see someone with a different mindset who was creative enough to look at signs.”

“I guess just next time you’re driving down the road, take a look at the signs around you,” Hoyt said. 

Tom Benoit can be reached at

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