A product that speaks for itself doesn’t need packaging to shout on its behalf. The required volume increases with the superfluity of the wares within.
Click here for more information on the inevitability of induction powered luminescent cereal boxes, before looking up into the sky and praying for a meteor strike to wipe out all of humanity.
This post follows on from an earlier one which regular readers will probably recall. If you’re an irregular reader you might want to click through and catch up before reading on.
A bicycle related body-ground interface recently left me with a rather awkwardly broken hand, and after a few hours of head scratching by the hand specialists at the local hospital it was decided that I needed surgery. A day later I was flat on my back in an operating theatre, trying my best to count the ceiling tiles and think calm thoughts while three surgeons cut, drilled and inserted bits of metal into my hand. When I’d been sewn back up and sent on my way and people were asking how it had gone, the only retort I could think of each time was ‘harrowing’. It seems a rather dramatic choice of word now, but at the time I wasn’t a happy bunny.
Aware of my rather low mood and the prospect of few months of forced inactivity, a friend visited a couple of days later and produced from her bag something guaranteed to cheer me up. Cheer me up it did. Within less than a minute I had been lifted from my miserable pit of self pity and transformed into a big kid stuffing my ridiculous face with gingerbread man. As I brushed the crumbs from my shirt I realised that it’s impossible to be grumpy while eating a gingerbread man.
As an adult there’s something so utterly preposterous about the act of eating one. The ludicrous cartoon anthropomorphism, the smarties for eyes and the icing grin – it all adds up to one of the most basic, innocent and delightful pleasures I can think of. Yes, my hand still hurt, I hadn’t forgotten my harrowing ordeal. I was still in plaster and on a load of pain killers, but with every bite of that delicious biscuity figure it all just seemed to matter less. I had to concede that life can’t be that bad while ever I’m eating a gingerbread man.
It’s true. Following a nuclear fallout there are probably no gingerbread men. Trapped in a submarine awaiting rescue, the chances are there won’t be gingerbread men. While being dealt a vicious and frenzied mauling by a large jungle cat in Borneo, there will probably be no gingerbread men. But while ever there are gingerbread men within easy reach, while we as a society can find the time to bake them, give them a face and inexplicably decorate their shirtless torso with buttons, and while we’re all at liberty to fill our ridiculous mouths with them, surely things can’t be that bad.
This all made me wonder if the gingerbread man might hold the answer to my earlier ponderings. Could the small, biscuity fellow help rid the world’s high bridges of all those horribly unsympathetic, inhuman signs?
Here is my proposal. Click for the full size.
A small sealed box is attached to the wall. The front consists of a thin laminated glass panel in the manner of an office fire alarm, behind which a gingerbread man is housed. Using the attached hammer, anyone in need can crack the glass and access the contents, behind which is located the phone number for the Samaritans. The local group would replace the gingerbread man with a fresh one every morning.
I’m aware that it seems like a ridiculous idea and I do feel a bit silly for suggesting it, especially having just spent the past forty five minutes illustrating the whole thing. And not for a moment do I believe that I have any real insight into the mind of the suicidal just because I broke my hand a couple of months ago. I’m not claiming to understand it at all. I do just really believe in the power of the gingerbread man.
You see it’s really very hard to take anything seriously – particularly yourself – while you eat a gingerbread man. In order to be contemplating suicide one must clearly be taking things very seriously indeed, so perhaps the brief, bizarre and ridiculous interlude of eating a gingerbread man might be just what’s needed to break the mood for long enough to convince someone that perhaps they should pick up the phone instead.
Plus, what says “we care” quite like leaving out a fresh gingerbread man for anyone who needs it? Even if not a single one were to ever be eaten, surely on that one message alone this concept wins over all those bloody horrible signs.
Picture credits for above photos, clockwise from top left:
break.things, Danny Howard, Mark Morton, Ellen.
Many thanks to all for making their pictures available for reproduction under creative commons licenses.
In a recent piece I wrote for typoholic website My Type Of… I raised the rather morbid subject of designing for the suicidal.
I’ve noticed these signs on a few high bridges over the years and found myself wondering what I’d do if given the task of designing such a thing. The first time the thought occurred to me was during a touristy stroll across the Golden Gate Bridge when I was 21, and most recently came back to mind when taking a similar touristy stroll over the somewhat smaller but equally magnificent Tyne Bridge just a week ago.
Potential solutions hadn’t really gone beyond layout consideration, brief thoughts on which typefaces, colours and graphics might be enough to convince the suicidal that there’s a point to carrying on. The current solutions are after all, a bit plain, a bit anonymous and inhuman. I wonder if a black uppercase serif really is the typography to prevent potential jumpers. Maybe something a bit more informal might be more suitable? Maybe I’ve finally found a valid use for Comic Sans? I joke of course. But whatever the perfect solution might be, I really think getting there would be an interesting (if morbid) process.
With vague thoughts on the subject going round my head, it’s a sheer coincidence then that Gizmodo should run the following story; Bridge Projector Reminds Suicide Jumpers “You Are Not Alone”.
What a marvelous solution – a great example of thinking outside the box. Here I was, wondering what I might screw to the wall in place of the current signs, and here these guys simply project the message directly onto the water below. An inspired idea, a very creative solution dealing with a very difficult subject.
It really is a difficult subject isn’t it, suicide. One people will so rarely discuss. A(n obviously now ex-) colleague of mine committed suicide a few years ago, and I was amazed at how a company full of free-thinking creatives were absolutely unwilling to even mention it. Even years afterwards it remained an unspoken subject, any mere mention of his name never failing to leave a bizarre awkwardness resonating throughout the studio.
When I’ve seen the Samaritans signs on bridges I’ve thought the lack of emotion, their simple, plain and apparently unconsidered design really tells of the subject’s awkwardness. Nobody has really wanted to sit down and deal with it, to gather around a table with notepads and cups of coffee and really try to get into the heads of the target audience in the way they might brainstorm any other brief. After all, who wants to do that? Who really wants to stand on top of a bridge, staring at the black water below, contemplating their existence in the name of research? Nobody, of course. It’s totally understandable, but it’s a shame that such a serious and important subject is so rarely given the same creative attention and treatment we give everything else.
Just think how much money must be spent every single day on marketing. Consider the amount of hours we pour into dreaming up new and interesting ways to brand, advertise, market and sell superfluous consumer goods. Items like reduced-fat apple and mango triple decker caramel wafers, hotelier’s association approved five-star microfibre pillow cases, low-energy teflon coated ceramic anti-static waffle irons and Norwegian formula bluetooth-enabled Y-fronts. Surely we can spare a few of those hours, a few of those creative sparks, to dealing with more serious and very much more real issues?
If we took every marketing expert, graphic designer, copywriter, packaging designer and advertising executive off their more usual and superfluous commercial tasks and instead told them to focus on the very real problem of combatting sky-high global suicide rates, we might start to see some really good solutions, solutions of a quality and effectiveness currently so lacking.
With the creative industry’s collective mind busy with that, and thus no longer focussed on pointless, soul-destroying consumerist bullshit, perhaps the ultimate solution eventually arrived at would be to simply unscrew the signs and throw them away, because they’d no longer be needed.
Thanks to Craig Rodway for making the title image “Don’t Jump… it’s not high enough” available for public display under a Creative Commons licence.
As I’m unable to string a half-decent sentence together at the moment, let me instead share one of my countless and utterly pointless design doodles that have passed many a bored hour.
The imaginary brief: A mountain bike team requires a team bus to transport its 3 sponsored riders plus their mechanic, bikes and equipment. As it will be used at race weekends across the country and beyond it needs to be able to sleep the team in comfort for multiple days on the road. As many race campsites are on fields, four wheel drive will be required to avoid getting stuck, and with access frequently being tight the vehicle must be manoeuverable. Due to the nature of the sport a separate workshop section will be required to keep muddy bikes and equipment away from the living quarter, and during events the interior should be adaptable for use as a lounge whilst remaining legal for use when on the road.
The imaginary solution: Take one Plaxton Cheetah. This midi coach is built on the rear wheel drive version of the Mercedes Vario commercial platform, a vehicle also available in a high-mobility 4×4 version. Replace the 4×2 driveline for the 4×4 version, chop the rear of the bus body and chassis away, graft on an extra section of chassis complete with steering tag axle to lengthen the floorplan. Build a rigid, insulated box body on the back.
Fit out the front quarters with five swivelling seats with integrated belts, a compact galley kitchen unit to the nearside and a wetroom W/C opposite. Divide the rear box body into two sections seperated by a door. The forward section contains a 4-bunk sleeping compartment, the rear a hose-down workshop area with bike racks and fitted tool boxes to keep all equipment in place when on the move.
The summary to all this imaginary stuff: This configuration provides the long distance comfort of an executive coach combined with the facilities of a camper van. 4 wheel drive, 4 wheel steer for increased traction and mobility. Separate living, sleeping and working quarters for the comfort of all users.
Some people count sheep. I design stuff.