Dulltown, UK: Today’s carefully selected adjectives are: crumbly, crabbed, Priapic, tomial, hastate, collenchymatous, and bumper. I must admit that I am attracted to the obscure clever-sounding ones, but ‘bumper’ as an adjective has to be my favourite.
Last week I saw a largish poster in one of the transparent display units on a local bus shelter – it featured faces of people (M and F) with staring bright eyes, who also seemed rather hot and sweaty, they looked like they might belong to some current new breed of action hero. I think the poster was advertising a film, or perhaps a new TV series, but I could be wrong.
I’ll bet, dear reader, that you are on the edge of your seat waiting to hear what the title of this show was; well, at the time, I must admit I was mildly curious too, but not because I wanted to watch it.
I was walking past the thing at a distance of only a few feet, but I couldn’t make out what the title was; I could see that it was composed of three words, but the lettering they had used was pale, and with a white outline, and it was completely lost against all that riotous and highly coloured background activity.
I didn’t bother walking up to it to find out, it didn’t look like my kind of thing anyway – however, it did look like a pretty expensive production – and the main job the poster had to do was tell people what the hell the thing was called. It failed miserably.
Yesterday I saw that a rash of different posters had been pasted up on walls and the fronts of closed-down shops in this area – they were smaller that the one mentioned above, about A3 size I should think. I don’t know what it was they were advertising though – there seemed to be lots of stuff crammed on it, and it did have a title in some sort of fancy lettering at the top. Perhaps it was advertising a festival in a nearby park with live bands, dancing, jolly sporting events, and stalls selling things? I don’t know, it was too difficult to read.
The whole sheet was printed in a mess of bright bright orange, red, and yellow, including the title – which was of course illegible, unless you walked up and looked at it from a few inches away – which I didn’t. I don’t think the event, whatever it was, was my kind of thing either…
I reckon this lack of simple communication is due to these things being designed by people staring closely at computer screens. I can imagine the conversation at the birth of that second poster above:
‘How’s this Billy? Is this the kind of thing you are after?’
‘Oh, fantastic! Look at those bright colours! See how they attract the eye! All the information is there. That’s brilliant Bob! People will be able to spot that from miles away!…’
I have a book from the 1960s (another of my old junk shop books) about sign writing and typefaces (not ‘fonts’ by the way, ‘typefaces’ is apparently the correct term). It has plenty of typeface alphabets and photographic examples of suitable letterings being used on shops and buildings. In the text when talking about a particular typeface they say things like:
Venus Italic Bold:
The very open nature of this bold face gives it a good horizontal viewing angle and almost as good an angle vertically due to the absence of serifs… its more extended nature encourages its use for long distance reading where legibility is extremely good.
The alphabet is well suited for both directional and advertising purposes especially in those cases where a modern effect is desired without the severity of a normal sans letter being too apparent…
Ah, those were the days…