Monday, June 27, 2005
The other day, while driving through town, Kim noticed a sign for a coffee shop. Now, this isn't an extraordinary occurrence — we've driven past this particular sign hundreds of times. But what was interesting, is that for the first time we noticed the thin, handwritten blue type that says "Elsie's" just to the left of the white "Coffee Shop" lettering. Now, the sign itself is a shade of purple, similar enough to the blue in tone that the "Elsie's" type just melted into the background. And so, we were never aware that this shop had an owner at all.
Like many of my designer-ilk, I nurture the habit of the "drive-by, real-time, design critique" exhibited in the example above. And in my time, I've seen a fair amount of bad signage. I don't really do anything about it, except point it out to whoever I'm with. If I'm not with anyone, I just go on with my life, happy in the knowledge that if I DID ever have a yard sale, I wouldn't create the letterforms with a ball-point pen — and I would make sure there wasn't a line break in the middle of the word SALE. And there would be an address on the sign.
But the next day, as we drove past this sign again, Kim turned to me and said, "We should just sneak out here at night, and fix the sign."
Essentially, we would be Design Vigilantes. I like this idea a great deal; it's as close as I can come to being a hero without having to hurry anywhere. And it makes the designer's propensity toward wearing black a functional choice.
The results would be slow in coming at first. A young lady, ready to make her purchases at the local supermarket, will see the sign that says "Line Starts Here", and finally realize why twenty people are blocking her way to the next scanning station. The elderly man, looking to make a right-hand turn on "Shiprock Lane" will see the sign BEFORE he actually passes the road. The manager of Hi-Fi House will notice that customers actually KNOW what the store sells, even though Mr. Manager may not notice that their previous logo (two blue squares, and a black outline square) is now a set of speakers.
My town will slowly and quietly become the example of efficiency. There will be no standing around, looking confused. People will arrive at destinations quicker than ever before. They may even use the extra time they have to not loiter or not litter and understand that those are two completely different things. Communication will become so seamless — we'll have fundamentally developed a hivemind!
Okay, okay... I am getting a little ahead of myself. As the old adage goes: One Hurdle at a Time...
I need to get together a mock-up of the "Coffee Shop" sign and do a couple preliminary sketches. Maybe gather up a couple of pantone swatches. I have the PERFECT font in mind, but it doesn't come in a lowercase, so I might need to create one from scratch. Oh! Does anyone have any demographic information on the Coffee Shop's target audience? We'll have to initiate a focus group and —
Hmmm... I may have just figured out why there's so few Design Vigilantes out there...