Too Conscious of Colour?

I’ve been needing to rant for some time now, but this isn’t the time. Besides, being an altogether irregular blog, this hasn’t really felt like the right outlet. Several experiences over the last few months have left me feeling unfairly treated, be it by companies or official bodies, but I think I’ll save ranting for later.

What’s this got to do with design? Well, in the fight back against these stubborn bastards, I’m becoming more familiar with certain organisations’ stationary or their approaches to design. In some cases, I’m starting to find that design is playing more of a role in how I perceive things.

I’ve never considered myself to be very visually creative (or not as much as I’d like to be), but I’m working on it. Anyway, I’m starting to find that design is affecting my perception of everyday things. Let me explain a little.

Example 1: Car Park Sign

Problem: I’ve been given a parking ticket, seemly the result of my inability to observe a sign at the entrance to a car park I have used all my life.

Aside from any of the other factors involved (I find the whole thing bloody unfair and will probably write more in a separate post/rant), the sole purpose of this sign is to warn visitors that evening charges have recently been imposed. With that in mind, does anyone else think that the following sign is fit for purpose?

The sign I'm on about is the unobvious one on the ground. Looking at that photo, how quickly did you figure out which sign I was talking about? It’s fairly small, at ground level, inadequately lit and has black text on a white background. The sign is placed on the bend that you drive around to enter the car park. You are hardly going to notice it.

My problems aside, black text on white is not an attention-grabbing combination. If you’re going to use it and want it to stand out, you’re probably going to have to make it quite big. Black text on white is found too often in everyday life to be effective in drawing attention. For this reason, there are actually requirements for such signs to be of a minimum size and fluorescent.

If I didn’t have an interest in design, I’m not sure whether I would have picked up on such a factor when making a case to the local council. Whether it is at all valid for me to make such a design consideration a factor here is probably irrelevant. I think I’m going to have to end up paying the f**king1 fine anyway.

Example 2: TV Licensing

Problem: TV Licensing are never happy with people who say that they don’t watch television. Alas, without a television, our DVD player and video recorder are rendered somewhat useless. Having previously explained our situation to TV Licensing, we find ourselves getting increasingly annoyed at the small tree’s-worth of correspondence we get through our door, bullying us with threats of being fined for not having a license.

Again, putting the problem aside, I’ll pick up on the use of the word “bullying” in my last sentence. Of all the correspondence we have received from TV Licensing, there have only been one or two letters that have not looked like a bill reminder or a demand for final payment.

A red TV License logo. The TV Licensing logo is blue. Everywhere you see the logo – on their website, vans, adverts (yes, we have seen adverts before) – it is blue. Except, when you get something through the post from them and the logo becomes red.

“Danger, Will Robinson. You don’t have a TV License and one of their officers will soon be visiting your neighbourhood.”

Overall, I think TV Licensing need to rethink their strategy. Red logos and red borders on everything doesn’t really help, especially when your reader is already in a pissed off frame of mind.

Update: I thought I’d share this interesting page about TV Licensing that recently linked to this post. It led me to find a post with some interesting statistics based on one person’s letters from TV Licensing. There’s even stats for the colour of the logo and border of the letters, which made my day!

Er, so?

Am I too conscious of colour in design? Do you think I’m being a complete pedant, or does this make sense to you? Have you found yourself thinking similar things, where a design just hasn’t seemed to lend itself to its purpose?

Note: my first f-bomb on a blog – perhaps unnecessary, but it made me feel a bit better and shows how pissed off I am. I’m normally a really clean-mouthed guy – honest – so I’ve at least added an asterisk. back from footnote 1.