The presentation of signage
July 18, 2006
Aloha. I've just returned from a two-week trip to the west coast of the US mainland, stopping by the Big Island of Hawaii for several days of laidback fun, none of which involved using a computer. It's wonderful for the creative soul actually to get away completely from technology for a while. The short time away from Japan too has inspired me and given me greater appreciation for many aspects of Japanese life, not the least of which is the absolutely amazing customer service you'll find here.
As you know, I believe strongly that we can learn many things about presentation design by casting a wide net and examining not only great speakers and presentations, but by opening our eyes to studying all aspects of visual communication. With that in mind, below are a few pics I shot while in the US last week.
This was shot above at a corndog stand near the beach in Seaside, Oregon. While standing in line, someone came up to ask the staff if they had any bathrooms. What? Didn't he read the sign?! I too didn't notice the sign (above). It made me smile; a great example of a decorative script typeface that serves to be ugly and unreadable (and even unnoticeable apparently). Well, at least the sign says "sorry." Still, a better idea would have been a small yet readable sign that not only matched the look and feel of the business, but that also informed customers that public restrooms were indeed available just 100 meters up the street.
While in Hilo, Hawaii I found this sign (above) placed at eye-level in the small toy section of a store called "The Most Irresistible Shop in Hilo." The sign is ironic, given the name of the shop, but the message is so off-putting and out of place it's amusing. I can almost hear my dad yelling at me as I read the sign, "This Is Not a Play Room, Damn It!" I don't like doing business with people who yell at me. I'm sympathetic to the shop. I grew up in a seaside tourist town, I know tourists can be a pain. Some people often seem to lose all common sense once they assume the role of tourist. But that's life. Your in-store signage says something about you. Crappy handwritten sings on faded paper say something about the brand. But signs written with an indignant tone say even more...and it ain't good. The shop was actually quite nice, making the sign all the more out of place. Come on, I say let the people play with the toys. They're "irresistible," right?
If you suffer from both arachnophobia (fear of spiders) and aviophobia (fear
of flying) you would have hated my seat on my Aloha Airlines flight from Kona to Honolulu a few days ago. I was seated in the window seat of the first row. I'm a bit paranoid myself of flying and I'm always looking for something to worry about it seems while waiting for takeoff. So I was a little distressed when I noticed a live spider crawling around, trapped between the exterior and interior windows of the 737. "What's a spider doing in there and what does its existence say about the maintenance of these planes?!" As a matter of fact, though, Aloha is an excellent airline with tremendous staff at all levels. And my short-lived bout of anxiety disappeared immediately when I noticed the sign below the window written on some masking tape: "CLEO the Spider". Funny. I learned that the spider had been stuck between the two pains of glass for several days; a flight attendant named the spider on an earlier flight. The sign said two things to me: (1) Don't worry about the spider. We are aware of it, but it's no big deal. And (2) Aloha Airlines has friendly staff with a sense of humor. We take our jobs seriously, but we can have fun too. I like that. (See my blogging buddy in Australia, psychologist Les Posen, for info on coping with the fear of flying here.)
Finally, I had a nice chuckle when we were served our second meal on the flight from Honolulu to Osaka yesterday. Sure, everyone hates airline food, but perhaps passengers will like their meal better if you remind them to "enjoy" it. Actually, it's a nice simple package with a clean narrow sans-serif typeface that says "light" as in light snack (though the cheese and ham sandwich must have been about eight million calories!).
If you ever get a chance to visit Hawaii, be sure to spend some time on the Big Island. The Big Island is the youngest and largest (obviously) of the Hawaiian Islands -- the recent lava flows are amazing. There are something like eleven different climates on the island — we went through most of them as we drove around the entire island in one (long) day. At Punalu'u Black Sand Beach I took a few photos of the sand, thinking that the sand would make an interesting texture for my images library. In the slide below, I used one of the photos as a background. You can download the photo (1024x768) I used for the background here.
The slide above uses a (background) photo of the sand at Punalu'u Black Sand Beach I shot a few days ago on the island of Hawaii.
Oh yes, I did something else pretty cool while in Hawaii. Here's a hint (I'm the one on the left).