August Nuggets - California font spotting!

I’ve been appreciating the unique signage around LA, so for this month’s nuggets, I’m checking out some fonts that you can’t not see in California.

Atomic Signs

California is home to the unique Googie Architecture movement. The space age inspired style influences buildings, signage and structures throughout California.

Even a typical drive to the shops is made fun with apartment buildings with names like 'Wonder Palms' and 'Shady Lane' set in lively 3D script on their fronts, and shops and businesses proudly displaying cheerful signs inspired by the classic Googie style.

Apart from classic Googie buildings and structures, brightly lit neon signs, and masterfully crafted hand painted signs (and full walls) are fantastic little slices of design and expression that are a refreshing step away from the mass manufactured signage of big business.

Here are some of my faves from recent adventures:

Signage is one of the most important pieces of branding for many businesses and there's something special and uniquely personal about a one off sign that makes you stop and appreciate it. The unique signage stands out from the mass manufactured corporate signs of large businesses, and you get the impression that the business cares about its customers and craft a whole lot more.

For a deeper dive on this topic:

Retro Script LA is a blog by Emily Richardson and David Jonathan Ross documenting some of LA’s classic signage and charming dingbats.

Roadside Architecture is a resource packed full of more than seventy thousand(!) images of Mid-century and Googie signs and buildings across the US for anyone feeling like a deep dive into this topic. 

Rage Italic

California license plates have just the right balance of serious and light, with the word ‘California’ set in script above the blocky monospaced sans serif of the actual plate lettering. The pleasant script font used is unexpectedly called Rage Italic (there’s a joke in there somewhere about traffic and road rage). A font called California by type foundry Helmo is based on the monospace font.

More on California (Fonts in Use)

More on Rage Italic (Fonts in Use)

Download Rage Italic here.


I don’t know if you can call the Hollywood sign lettering a font (although I’m certain Dafont has many recreations with great names available to download for free), but you can’t talk about iconic California signage without mentioning it. 

If you don’t already know about its roots in real estate advertising, it’s an interesting story worth a read especially from a marketing perspective.

Here are some other notable fonts and designs from around California:

Standard road sign font - Highway Gothic

Fixing the crazy parking sign totems - a UX project by Nikki Sylianteng.

The BBC on LA's Neon sign revival.