State Highway Makeover
Original website created by CC Slater, quoted below as CCS. Submission information at the
bottom of the page.

CCS: "State Highway Signs have gotten boring over the years. Lots of states have opted for plain circles and squares. Now the justification for this is that such designs provide for visibilty, and easy recognition. True enough, but nothing says you can't design a useful sign that's graphically attractive. Following are some examples of redesigns. Now these signs are based on square / rectangular blanks which are reasonably easy to knock off. The difference is what you put in the square. "
This page last updated Wednesday, March 01, 2000 10:15:22 AM Eastern Standard Time.
Recent additions / changes: Michigan, West Virginia, Hawaii, Wisconsin, North Carolina


From M. Dietrich : This contains an improvement to the classic Ark. figure sign. It's debatable what colors would show up clearer at night with the brights on. Either way, it's different.



CCS: Now the new bit may be a bit busy; but I think it hits all the high points-Including what, in my humble opinion is an important addition: the Highway NAME. In our 49th and 50th states, people generally refer to highways by name rather than number. Tourists aren't hip to this. The new design associates name and number to the benefit of visitor and native alike. (Large version on Big Signs page)


RVD: That green blob thing Caltrans uses is a miner's spade? I'd bet few Californians know that. This shield was inspired by the Alaskan and Hawaiian shields CCS came up with. A freeway name has been added to reflect the California fondness for referring to their state roads and highways by names as opposed to a number like most the rest of the lower 48. California's silhouette was shaded yellow in honor of the "Golden State".


RVD: Connecticut has used the same boring square for a decades. It is worse than the unimaginative circle because the black numbers in a white box concept is also used by speed limit signs. This shield uses the FHWA encouraged state outline method, with a traditional state abbreviation. During the 1950's or 1960's, Connecticut did use a state outline on their state highway shield, they should have stuck with the idea.


RVD: I don't know why Delaware uses a circle when they are "The Diamond State". They are not overly close to North Carolina or Michigan, so this shield would stand out locally. Even simpler colors like black and white would be as functional and recognizable as the state flag's colors shown. I do prefer color.


From Alexander Nitzman : I have been wanting to submit this image for awhile now. It's what I'd like to see DE state highway shields look like. Notice the blue / gold scheme (well imagine it's gold :o), matching the state's colors. Also I love geographical representations of states, so I added Delaware's shape to the sign. (Bigger picture on the Big Signs page)

District of Columbia:

CCS: I was dissapointed when I saw the official sign on James Lin's site. I was always hoping that any D.C. sign would incorporate the District flag which I always thought looked sort of spiffy. So for my sign, I tossed it in; and added blue, for complete patriotic effect. It is the Nation's Capitol, after all.


Jeff Leadbetter of Orlando, FL sent in this updated version of Florida's state highway shield, with the state flag and name, like the CCS Maryland shield. (Bigger picture on the Big Signs page) The toll version, on the right, uses red numbers as well as keeping the rounded bottom of the current FL toll shield, while shifting the state name and shield.

RVD: Here is my idea for Florida's state highway shield. This one is based on a recent successful license plate design that had an orange yellow Florida watermark behind dark green numerals. I used coral for the state 'watermark', hoping for a durable but light color. The toll shield version would keep the green TOLL banner and the rounded bottom.

This Florida sign was submitted by Jim Gieger. He favors a coral and sea green scheme, enhanced by a central yellow sunburst and black numbers. (Larger version on Big Signs page)


Dan "SPUI" Moraseski would like to see special shields for Florida's "FREE" limited access freeways to match the TOLL shields, especially on the free portions of the tollways and turnpikes. Note the blue state outline as opposed to the orange-red outline sported by TOLL FL 417 around Orlando. (Note: Spui's submittal is on the right, my interpretation is on the left. The red banner is supposed to aid in the identification of the 'free' way and to resemble the Interstate shield. - RVD)


CCS: Since I've done the page anyway, Here's my idea for a new Hawaii Sign. Why all this? Have one look at my Oahu page (Now maintained by Oscar Voss). If you know the highway names in Hawaii, you'll never get lost. For those of us who go by numbers, though - it's pretty scary . . . Like Alaska, this represents a compromise between systems - all the more important in Hawaii, where a stretch of road can change name or number at a moment's notice.

RVD: The Aloha state has that bean / nut / seed / umm . . . whatever. They also use a rainbow on their license plates, to their credit. Color is good. I took half the rainbow and big black numbers off the license plate. I added the highway name in a smaller font underneath, since CCS mentioned the local importance of the road names. In my opinion, Hawaii has the worst shape of any state for the state outline method, followed closely by Rhode Island.


RVD: The Prairie State used to use a state outline on their highway sign, but dropped it in the 1960's or 1970's. This sign brings that back, though squashed to fit a square sign blank. The full state name was kept from the current boring square blank. A silver-grey wash was added outside to help it stand out from the surrounding states. Using BGS green might work in that area as well, the same color as on the Hawaii sign above.

From Jeffrey Ammons : Here's my idea for a revised Illinois state route shield. You will notice I kept the state name at the top of the shield while coloring the background black and placing the route number inside a silhouette of Abraham Lincoln's head since Illinois is the Land of Lincoln. You will also notice I colored Lincoln's silhouette yellow since Illinois is also the Prairie State.

From Brandon M. Gorte : Illinois does have a boring shield (it is a square after all). However, it could be changed slightly. The state does not lend itself to a states outline type shield, and there really is no symbol that both the northern 1/3 and the southern 2/3s would agree upon. I chose a flower pot shape as it is neutral to both sides, and the state isn't too close to Nebraska :-) .

From M. Dietrich : I also did an Illinois just for laughs.




CCS: Kim Harvey requested this one. Basically it's still the same square, but with a touch of colour to it. I think the panel and the nonstandard typeface make the state name more noticeable-which in my opinion, is important.


RVD: The Hoosier State also used to use a state outline on their highway sign. The state's true shape in my proposed sign has been modified to fit a standard sign blank while retaining the state's unique identity. The state seal is unsuited for use as a highway sign. The blue coloring is the base of the state flag.


From M. Dietrich : I also did a couple for Indiana just for laughs.




RVD: Iowa has used a circle for their state highway shield a long time, which is a shame because their state has a beautiful shape for signs. The state name was easy to add to the remaining space on the sign blank.



RVD: Kentucky also uses a black circle for their state highway sign, and has for decades. This sign is intended to complement the Tennessee State Highway sign with the fancier script at the bottom. I considered adding a racehorse in the upper left corner, but dropped it to reduce clutter.


From Kevin Hewlett : As many know, we (KY) use the same, stupid circle that bunches of other states use, and frankly, a white circle on a black background dosen't reflect our state! I thought that we oughtta go along with our neighbor Tennessee's design, except we splash some blue on our state's and white is, of course, what our state worships (University of Kentucky's colors). And for the county highways, why don't we keep the circle, but instead use a blue background with blue numbers....that way, we'll all know the difference between the main roads and the dinky little county roads.


RVD: I think mentioned before that a blank white square or rectangle is boring. They litter New England, and have since the New England Interstate Trails of the 1920's. This shield gives more identity to the Pine Tree state. Blue was chosen as a background color because it offers better visibilty and recognizability in forested areas than green, and would show up in the snow as well.


CCS: I've hated Maryland's sign for years. Boring, boring, boring. Minnesota had a sign like this, and they gave it the old heave-ho for a much more attractive and equally functional design. My new Maryland design follows in that tradition, I think. I added the State shape and the State Flag to give the state identity a bit more exposure. It might make the tourists think we have a bit of pride here... (Large version on Big Signs page)


RVD: Squares are more boring than circles, and can be mistaken for anything. This marker would be unmistakable as a highway marker for the Bay state. A state name should be added, like on this shield. I used the italic version of Arrus BT font for a modern classic feel. The color is supposed to be a deep cranberry-like purple red which will stand out among the New England states.


From M. Dietrich : Although the Diamond M figure for Michigan is sort of unique.... it's still a basic figure. I'll think of some colors later, for now.. the standard black and white will do. I am shocked no one tried to fit numbers inside the state outline... here's proof it can! Also... all the state highways actually DO start with M (i.e. M 49, M 14, etc). Therefore, I put the "M" in the upper penisula so they won't be left out. C'mon M.D.O.T.!!.

RVD: The basic description of the existing Michigan shield is a diamond, the same shape reserved for warning signs since the 1920's. Due to an improvement in the roads and highways in this state, the shape no longer seems appropriate. Also, the existing numbers are shrunk to fit in the reduced area. On this new shield, the numbers are expanded across the sign face. A state outline was added behind the numbers in yellow, one of the state colors. The numbers and border are in blue, the other color on the state flag. The singular 'M' was dropped in favor of a more descriptive state name, also in blue. Michigan's claim to the singular 'M' can easily be made by seven other US states, the countries of England and Australia for their Motorways, and even a Canadian province. It's time to modernize,and join the world.


From M. Dietrich : Once again, the transportation board neglected a good opportunity to plaster the state outline on highway markers *(they certainly do for license plates!)* I added "Minnesota" in Daniela script for a touch of elegance. I believe Minnesota also has "county trunks" similar to Missouri's alphabetic highways. Maybe some one will explain to me why letters were used in only a few states like MN, WI, and MO.
Commentary by Steve Riner: Concerning the proposed route markers: Actually, Minnesota does not have lettered "County Trunk" routes like Missouri's supplementary routes. There is an extensive network of marked county highways, but they are marked with numbers almost exclusively. There are very few lettered county routes in the state, and these are generally on special purpose routes like park roads. Also, county routes are not called "trunk" routes. Only state highways in Minnesota are properly called "trunk highways." (In Wisconsin, county roads are properly called "County Trunk Highways.") County roads are marked with either the older style white square marker, or in many counties the standard blue pentagon. A final comment on the proposed state route marker: the current sign does have the state outline, albeit a very small figure next to the state name.


RVD: As part of the campaign to eliminate blandness, the circles all have to go, including the Magnolia state's. The possible new shield on the left would stand out locally, the inverse of Alabama's FHWA-acknowledged highway sign. (It is used as a MUTCD example of what a state shield should look like.) Someone (I forget who) suggested using Mississippi's 1990's advertising logo, that possible shield is on the right, a light grey state silhouette under the state route number.

From Adam "Froggie" Froehlig : Here's my idea for remaking the Mississippi shields. I've always liked how Minnesota's (my home state) looks, so I used a similar design for Mississippi. I've also made them out in red, white, and blue, which incidentally are Mississippi's state colors. They're wide enough to accomodate 3dis, yet don't look crappy with 1 and 2 digit routes.


From M. Dietrich : The state outline is perfect for numeric routes. But why the dreaded square for alphabetic? I decided to go 2 steps further, first using the same outline of MO, then coloring it in (blue, silver, whatever), then whiting the letters in to make it stand out. Also, the words "State Road" are added even techinically it's a secondary road. I really don't see much difference between their primary and secondaries. Both have potholes, speed limit signs, and the abundance of road kill. Besides that, it's a pretty state.


RVD: "Big Sky Country" has another one of those boring squares. This proposed shield keeps the state name while adding the distinctive state outline and adding color. Brown was used to stand for Montana's namesake, the mountains, Green for its wealth of timber, and Light Blue for the sky.



From M. Dietrich : Although, I like the traditional Conestoga design with state name... the inverted trapezoid left much to be appreciated as unique. I decided to keep the Conestoga with a basic sunset pattern in the back. Below it is the state pattern with the state name and highway number below it. (Large version on Big Signs page).



This sign was contributed by Nick Christensen, who maintains the Vegas Highways page. His design incorportates the state's colors of blue and black, while moving the name out of the state outline.


New Jersey:

CCS: Sometimes you don't want to mess with tradition. New Jersey has used a circle for it's state highway sign since at least 1926, as far as I know. (before that, they used a state outline cut-out -RVD) But since Delaware uses the same design, why not add just a touch of state identity to the Old Traditional?

RVD: Mess with tradition. Ring the bells of revolution! All boring, generic circles must go. But what to replace it with? Why not follow the New York example, and use the state seal as a highway shield? The colors are from the state flag, as is the general shape of the state seal.


North Carolina:

NCRVD: The diamond shape used by North Carolina has had a long tradition of service. It also says nothing about the state. Since we have established 'Tradition is No Protection', here is another entry. This new proposed shield includes a state shape in brown and the state name, with a white background. Brown was chosen to represent one of the state's primary industries . . . agriculture.


RVD: Oklahoma uses yet another boring circle. The Sooner State used to use a diamond sign. On the top point of the old yellow diamond was an OK, so it was added to this new-style state outline in a western style font. The outline is not dimensionally accurate, but it is instantly recognizable.


This sign was contributed by Jeremy Lance, who maintains the Arkansas Highways page. His home state already has a great highway marker, so he looked across the border for a sign to improve. His design incorporates the 1970's era circle, while adding a state name in a font from a recent (1990's) license plate, and a Native American symbol commonly used in OK behind the numbers.


CCS: Ah, Yes, Pennsylvania-the Keystone state. To their credit, they use this as a symbol. But a lot more could be done to liven up state roadsides. You'll note I retained the Keystone in the background. This could also make a pretty cool licence plate. (Large version on Big Signs page) (Pennsylvaina spelling on original ccs graphic)

Rhode Island:

RVD: "Little Rhody" also uses a white square, adorned with only the state's initials. This is unimaginative and boring. With RI's recently revived tourist industry, a sign more representative of the state would be nice. This design features a yellow anchor and a yellow border, just like the state flag. The state initials were kept, but moved to the upper corners of the sign.

South Carolina:

RVD: This sign is based on the state highway shield from the 1920's and 1930's, when the Palmetto State's highway sign featured a state outline and the words, "State Highway" in a arc over the number, and S.C. below. This sign would lend itself to coloring, filling in the state or the border with a color to make it stand out.



CCS: The Lone Star State got rid of the star around 1950. The original sign was a Texas Ranger Badge type bit. My design reincorporates the star without changing the current sign excessively.

RVD: Texas is an odd state. Their primary route makers are black and white squares, with the state name. Boring and sad considering they had a unique Ranger-Star shield before that. Their secondary routes, the Ranch-to-Market (RM) and Farm-to-Market (FM) routes use a white state outline on a black shield. That shield looks great, and should have been the state highway marker. Taking this a step further, I added the state flag colors to this shield, and kept the state name.


Landry Heaton of Kanab, Utah sent in this rework of his home state's shield, adding some color to the existing Beehive design. His website has a few more graphic variants on new Utah beehive coloration.


West Virginia:

CCS: Again in the "Not Messing Too Much With Tradition" Line, here's a makover of the West Virginia State Highway sign. (Large version on Big Signs page)


RVD: Again in the "Messin' With Tradition" Line, here's my rework of the Mountain State's Highway sign. Much as I like the look of the blue fading on CCS's sign, solid colors should be easier to manufacture, post, and maintain in the field. Also, the state's shape is hard to make out on his version. The "Mountaineers" logo from WVU and West Virgina University colors should be very popular, a recognizable symbol of state pride.


RVD: Just when you thought the topic of new state highway signs had been milked dry, here's an udder one. A butter one. The cream of the crop. Wisconsin has clung to a cheezy triangle for so long no one remembers why it was chose in the first place. Time to get churning on a new design. The most noticable improvement is adding colors, green and orange. The bovine was added because of the dairy industry, in orange, a good cheeze color. Green is readable and relates to a minor port near the top of the state. Despite my best intentions, I'd bet someone has a cow about this, no matter which way I slice it.

A few parting shots at the Interstates:

<-- A sign much like this has been rumored to be a serious choice to replace the Interstate shield. It has the twin 'advantages' of being ugly and generic. (Not my design- RVD)

Interstate 2000? A four digit sign may look this way.-->

<-- Is this what Intertstate H-201 signs will look like, if they ever post them? The road does exist.


Right now there is no difference in the shields used on a 'TOLL' or a 'FREE' Interstate Highway. My proposed shield for the tolled ones is a white shield with black numbers, with a green banner area with the word 'TOLL' in big, bold letters. It would be easy to translate on weather maps, too, an interstate shape with a green top. I can not claim credit for the basic idea, Florida does something similar with its tolled state highways.- RVD

Maybe future Interstate signs will look like this? It is not very likely that they will change the Interstate shields soon. It is the only place a USA lower 48 outline might ever get used, besides it is a non-cutout design. If they must change to a square / rectangle, a two-tone blue background with the lower 48 states would look nice in the main body area, Alaska and Hawaii would use state shapes in this area. The state name could get printed in white in the lower left corner. RVD

These signs were also contributed by Nick Christensen, who maintains the Vegas Highways page. These designs for the Interstate and US highway shields are based on a stylized eagle's head / I for the interstate, and a red eagle's head with an upraised blue wing for the US shield.


Those of you wanting to avoid eyestrain can look at larger versions some of these shields at Big Signs.

Main Page U.S. Highways: From US 1 to (US 830): Your host site.

More parts of the former CCS site are at Dan Moraseski's SPUI Freeway.

E-mail Robert V. Droz with additions, corrections, suggestions and comments about this web site.

These pages were originally part of C.C. Slater's website, he has since left the Internet. There has been changes since then. All the graphics of existing signs are available at James Lin's Road Signs Pages. Mr Slater's words are quoted to him as CCS. My words are marked RVD. If you have a better design for a state highway shield, send it in. Preferable size of submitted signs is 75 x 75 pixels in JPG, GIF, or larger zipped BMP format (Scaled 24" x 24" square). Wide-sized sign submittals should be approximately 94 x 75 pixels (Scaled 30" x 24" rectangle). Oversize submittals will be shrunk before display. The best new designs will be added, time and space permitting. Well-reasoned commentary may be added, at the webmaster's discretion. If you wish any sign you had posted here earlier removed, E-mail me and I will remove it.