Motorway (typeface)

Category Sans-serif
Designer(s) Jock Kinneir
Margaret Calvert

Motorway is a typeface designed by Jock Kinneir and Margaret Calvert for use on the motorway network of the United Kingdom. It was first used on the M6 Preston bypass in 1958 and has been in use on the UK's motorways ever since. It is also used in some other countries, most notably Ireland and Portugal.

Use in the UK

The Motorway alphabet appears on road signs on motorways in the United Kingdom, and is used for route numbers. It has a limited character set - only the numbers "0" to "9", the letters "M", "A", "B", "N","E" "S", "W", the symbols "(", ")" and "&", and the word "Toll" (treated as a single character). On non-motorway roads at interchanges, the Motorway typeface may only be used on signs pointing in a direction where a driver would become immediately subject to motorway regulations. All other text on UK road signs appears in Transport.

Motorway is available in two weights: Motorway Permanent is the standard weight, and is used for pale text on a dark background (i.e. white-on-blue permanent motorway signs) while Motorway Temporary is heavier, and is used for dark text on a pale background (i.e. black-on-yellow temporary motorway signs).[1]

A full character set of the Motorway typeface was completed by the K-Type foundry in 2015, almost sixty years after its inception. The family includes the Bold (Temporary) weight, the SemiBold (Permanent) weight, and a previously unconsidered Regular (book) weight. There is also a new italic font for each weight.


Motorway font in use on a directional sign on an Irish motorway. Note the "R" in Transport font.

The Motorway font is also used in Ireland. Its use is slightly different from that in the UK - in the Republic, motorway route numbers are always in Motorway font, whether the sign is on a motorway or not. In addition, on signs erected before 2009, route numbers for all-purpose roads on motorway signs were in Transport font. On signs erected since 2009, all route numbers on motorways are now in motorway font, bringing Ireland closer to the UK practice (however, as Motorway font has not previously featured the letters "R" and "L", these letters still appear in Transport). As in the UK, all other text on road signs appears in Transport font.


  1. Chris's British Road Directory, URL accessed 29 June 2009
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