Look closely and it says, "This offer applies to all England merchandise priced at £1.95". Very odd.
And then this, it says "Almost funny". What's that? Better than 'not funny' but not as good as actually 'funny'?
And lastly this. They definitely don't want you to do any of these things.
If that's the case, why did the graphics designers make them look like so much fun in the little pictures?
In an age where people rarely send letters or faxes. In a world where saving paper and ink would be seen as a huge advantage. In a time when every home has a desktop printer but those printers are used to print out address, or phone numbers or tickets. Why does the default paper size have to be A4?
One of the biggest uses of A4 is for stuff like this.
Every single one of these notices could have been produced on A5. Indeed they would have looked better on A5. In fact, I'll bet the total print area of most of these notices could fit on A5.
So why don't we have smaller, A5 printers. Why isn't A5 paper the standard paper size you can buy in Tescos? Why isn't an A5 printer more common place at home?
Wouldn't that be a more useful and a more efficient size?
If you read this, "The future as it happens" purely as a piece of copy, typed on a sheet of A4, black and white with no design whatsoever, you would probably assume it means "the future at the same time as it occurs".
Given the nature of the publication it is advertising you would assume it means the "the future reported at the same time as it happens".
However, the typographic treatment pictured above implies it's being said by someone with a heavy Essex accent which gives it a different, less dynamic meaning altogether.
This food staple was being handed out at Liverpool St. home of London's finance industry. I know there's been a banking crisis, but I'm confident the commuters rushing through that station can afford a loaf of bread.
We understand that the road is closed, that's pretty obvious from the massive steel barrier shielding the huge orange digger. But still the red and white sign is a necessary notification.
It's helpful to know which way to travel as we can no longer continue straight on. The yellow sign that says 'Diverted traffic' and points to the right does that job perfectly well.
The contractor has the right to advertise his firm.
The other four signs (six if you count the cones) are unnecessary, ugly, make the street considerably more unpleasant and are insulting to my intelligence.
I always assume you lot read all the same blogs as me. Which is very wrong, I shouldn't do that.
At first, I thought that was a printing error and something had been left out of the circle. But no, that white circle is their logo. Really.
That's shockingly bad, isn't it?
I saw this s'morning. Awful isn't it.
I can see what they're trying to do with the whole orange and passionfruit and water in the middle thing. But, seriously, the execution is shocking.
And it the graphic device is so fucking big. It's like the opposite of when the account people make the logo bigger and the device smaller. Awful.
Which is a shame, because I always liked that Brains ad...
You may not be aware, but recently there's been a bit of a rebranding scandal in the world of domestic heating.
Since 1970 there has been an organisation in the UK called CORGI or the Council for Registered Gas Installers. Very quickly, for our overseas readers, this organisation operates the registration scheme for gas installers in the UK. If you're getting a gas boiler fitted or serviced you must only use CORGI registered engineers.
So you can check the validity of your local gas engineer Corgi have a neat little orange shield logo. Obviously the logo has undergone several face lifts over the years, but basically it looks like this.
You see it on ID cards, on letterheads, on vans and on uniforms. In fact, it's reputed to have a recognition rate of 93%. That seems a bit steep to me, but I'm sure it's still a very high number.
Last year the Government decided to put the contract for gas installer registrations out to tender. Presumably to save money, as Governments do. And Corgi didn't win. Capita won, the people who run the Congestion Charge.
After the celebrations were over and all the champagne corks had been popped, someone from Capita rang someone at Corgi and asked if they could have the logo. You can imagine how that conversation went, but to save you the trouble I've mocked up a version. Like the tabloids do.
Capita "Good morning, Capita here. We're just won that gas safety contract from you. I'm just ringing to ask if we can have a copy of the logo. One of the designers told me to ask for an Eepeess, but I've no idea what that means, so a jpeg will do. Needs to be in colour. Something like a word file would be better though, as we're going to print it."
Corgi "Sorry. We own that little shield, it's called branding and it's our intellectual property. You can't have it."
Capita "Oh. Can't we just have the one off your website?"
Corgi "I'm calling the lawyers..."
Anyway. You get the picture. Corgi won't let Capita or the Government use their logo. The one that has been going for 39 years and has a 93% recognition rate. They own that you see, even though it's always been a scheme associated with the Government. When the Government put the contract out to pitch, you'd have thought they would have considered that, wouldn't you?
So Capita have had to create their own brand. It's called the 'Gas Safety Register' and it looks like this.
Looks like everyone has learned something as the new "Gas Safe Register" brand is owned by the Health and Safety Executive, but is on loan to Capita for the duration of its contract.
Ann Robinson, director of public awareness at Gas Safe Register has said "This is not like Marathon changing to Snickers, because ours is a campaigning brand. Our aim is to support registered engineers throughout the changeover and beyond. We will make sure your customers know CORGI gas registration is gone and Gas Safe Register is the official stamp for gas safety".
To make sure that happens the Government has set Capita a target to achieve "an 'unprompted' public awareness percentage rate of 40% by October 2009." Ahhh, our old friend 'unprompted' public awareness. Watch out for people spontaneously shouting, "Gas Safety Register! It's a bloomin' yellow triangle!" over the next few months.
40% by October this year. Feels pretty small compared to that 93% doesn't it?
This whole episode raises several issues.
1. That yellow triangle thing is fucking horrible. It almost looks like a spoof logo. I presume it's been designed to fit on the corner of a boiler or something, but it represents a huge opportunity missed. That yellow looks like a web safe yellow not a brand colour and the type relationships are very odd. I know which logo I'd rather sew onto my overalls.
2. To me this debacle demonstrates the value of branding far better than any Interbrand ranking. As UK White Goods say, "The total cost of the HSE's rebranding exercise was not disclosed." but what's the value of that little orange shield to the Government? What's the value if there's an accident? The whole Corgi thing started after the explosions in Ronan Point in 1968.
3. Welcome to Intellectual Property 2009. Corgi may well have been better off selling the shield to Capita. Maybe they tried. The Government would have been better off owning the shield in the first place. Probably no one cared in 1970. Intellectual Property is a minefield and no agency has a decent grip on it. Certainly no design agency.
A cautionary tale in many ways.
Hat tip to Charles The Plumber who first alerted me to this.
There's a lot of navigation around at the moment. The future apparently is micro processors telling you (and everyone else) where you are.
But, today, let us concentrate on the posters.
I'm pretty sure that BT have absolutely no idea where anything is, but they're jumping feet first on to the band wagon.
Aside from that insipid blue what I really hate about this is the London Eye compass. Actually, using that circle for a compass isn't a bad idea, not necessarily a good idea, but certainly not a bad one. That shape says London and it says compass - that makes sense.
But we all know what a compass looks like don't we? And that funny star shaped thing in the middle, that thing you only get on compasses, that reinforces that it's a compass, doesn't it?
It's a horrible font. It doesn't sit comfortably in the composition and it doesn't feel like it points North. Look at it again in the top picture. It looks like a mistake.
Further proof that what you leave out is as important as what you put in.
I don't know what else to call this really.
You must have a look at this. A disgruntled designer has published the Pepsi band guidelines for the new logo online. They are truly hellish.
There are almost no words to describe the awfulness contained with the PDF. Have a look at the full story here. Via DO.
Ages ago a Head of Internet (or something like that) from a big high street retail brand asked me why a website looked smaller on my computer than it did on his.
"Well, my screen resolution is different" I answered. Obviously. There was a small silence. "Explain to me about screen resolution again..."
This wasn't the first time this had happened. Someone very high up in an organisation and in charge of an internet didn't know what srceen res was. Now, I'm not being facetious you can't expect everyone to know everything. But I thought it might be a nice idea to get everyone to describe 'their internet' at the first meeting of any new client. Like they do at school when the new kids arrive mid term. Get everyone up to the same level. That way, everyone would know the 'level' of everyone else and there would be no clangers later on.
Here's My Internet, it's not finished so feel free to add your own in the comments.
1. My Internet doesn't use flash, evahhh. Unless it's a video, and then only for video.
2. My Internet prefers html text wherever possible.
3. My Internet lets me use my email address or my usual username as a username. It doesn't give me one or make me create a new one.
4. My Internet lets me use a password entirely of my own choosing. It doesn't make me add numbers or Capitals wH3re I don't want them.
5. My Internet values simplicity and clarity over almost everything else.
6. My Internet prefers tools that I'm familiar with like Flickr, YouTube, iTunes, Google etc. It doesn't reinvent convention for the sake of it.
7. My Internet has a screen resolution of 1024x768. Today. As I write this. That will change sooner than you think.
8. My Internet has absolute urls for everything.
9. My Internet may not have exactly the same colours as My Printed Matter.
10. If My Internet was forced to choose between speed and visual lushness, speed would win easily.
11. My Internet has no back, forward or print buttons. That's what My Browser is for.
12. My Internet has contact details clearly accessible right from the word go.
13. My Internet will not work for everyone, everywhere, always, at the same time, all the time. It will especially not work for CEO's Aunties.
Look carefully on the top left. Pizza Hut has changed it's name to Pasta Hut.
No joke of a lie. Pizza Hut is now Pasta Hut.
Go to the website and watch the cheesiest flash video (again top left) of two workmen replacing the neon Pizza with a neon Pasta. Unbelievable.
And here's a picture of a new Pasta Hut restaurant from the Daily Telegraph. I was starting to wonder why they keep saying, "these are strange times" on the news...
About two years ago I was looking at a map of the world and noticed that Britain seemed disproportionately large.
My companion remarked that this was because in days of yore whoever was drawing the map always made their country look bigger and more important. This nugget of information sticks in the brain.
So for the last two years I've been taking pictures of Britain on world maps. Not accurate maps, but drawings or illustrations of maps. The differences are amazing. You might assume that all maps were accurate, or at least accurate-ish. But no, designers play fast and loose with the truth making the host country bigger, more important or more central.
Look at Britain in these photos. Look at the size of it compared to Europe. It's the same, but different.
Americans will be used to seeing this map of the world.
Whereas Europeans will be used to seeing this map of the world.
In this instance one isn't more accurate than the other, but the perception is very different and the power designers wield in shaping that perception is huge.
New Zealanders can often play Spot Our Country. Next time you see a map of the world on the BBC News or in the paper, look for New Zealand. Odds are it will have been left out in the name of aesthetics. If it's not left out then it's cropped to within an inch of it's life.
Most New Zealanders would probably prefer their maps to look like this.
The answer to most of these problems is to look at the world via Buckminster Fuller's amazing Dymaxion Map.
Back to where we started. Over the last few months I took lots of photos of maps, you can see them on Flickr.
Today I traced over England, Scotland and Wales. Please note these tracings were done quickly and aren't massively detailed. The results are quite odd.
They all look pretty different don't they? You know it's Great Britain, but some of them are wild approximations.
Next I dropped them all on top of each other (here I left off Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland because I wanted to compare just one shape).
That's a bit higgledy piggledy so I filled them all in.
Viola! The mean shape of England , Scotland and Wales by 14 graphic designers. Not very accurate, is it?
This isn't a cartography blog and I know some of these maps are over stylised for a reason but I want to make a wider point about graphic designers and the assumptions we make and how easily they are accepted. If you look at all the maps on Flickr they all look kind of OK. When I put them all together it looks like madness. Like people having been taking liberties with the truth.
Think of other times you do this.
Hierarchies are a good example. The point of bold and italic and underline is to make one piece of text more important than the other. But how many times do you see a poster where the text is bold, italic and underlined? I bet I could get a load of notices like that and achieve the same effect as the 14 shapes above. Everything would be bold.
Premiumisation - there's a word that really fucks me off. I once heard the MD of a famous packing company droning on about how his firm's USP was that they could design premiumisation into any old piece of packaging. In case you're wondering, that means lots of over elaborate folds, some foil blocking and a healthy does of script and moody photography. Problem is, take a look at the chocolate cakes in Tescos, I bet you'll find 10 'premiumised' brands, 4 value brands and nothing inbetween.
What I'm saying is that graphic designers have a certain amount of power, people tend to trust what they see without much questioning. We should use that power carefully.