Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Signs and ads around the world

On my recent trip round the world I spent most of my time sweating, eating or looking at things. One of the things that constantly caught my eye was the way other cultures do their marketing, advertising, and other forms of social and public communications. 

Here, at one end of the spectrum, is a perfect piece of "please be a good person" public information advertising in the Tokyo Metro:  

My favourite bit is the "NEGLECT" part of the diagram.

At the other end of the spectrum is this hand-made / handwritten / hand-drawn "No swimming in the river! Dangerous currents!" mural from Hampi, India:

How charmingly and immediately simple white paint on a rock conveys the message. Even if you can't read the text, the image tells you everything you need to know.

Of course, there's loads I missed because I was looking for "advertising" from a European point of view. I'm sure there were various information displays and signposts that I completely failed to recognise due to cultural blindness.

Then there are the ones I forgot to take pictures of, including:
  • A billboard ad for flour in Fiji, featuring a cute little kid holding a spoon and licking his lips with the line: "Honest, it tastes real good!"... he eats raw flour? Really?
  • Indian arranged marriage ads in the papers. Really amazingly specific details of the individual's attributes and qualifications, with an equally detailed list of what they're looking for in a bride / husband.
  • Mexican wall painting on shops and stuff. Beautiful, colourful and individual. 
  • Actually, wall paintings are big in lots of places. Why don't we do this over here any more?
  • Handwritten chalkboard menus in Indonesia. Basic and great.
  • India (again) is big on pictures of faces. People are big! The best thing was the end of year posters where schools advertise how well their pupils have done. Gigantic banners full of smiling kids (just the heads) with 276! 284! 289! printed underneath. 
Anyway, I made a Flickr set of the vaguely relevant photos I took around the world. It features anything to do with communicating information - signs, icons, logos, adverts, murals etc. Only 30-ish pix so far, so it's quick to check em out.

I'd love to do something that mixes the simplicity and charm of wall paintings with the new and exciting "internet of things" stuff. Less overthinking the messaging, more sophistication and richness in what people on the receiving end can do with it. 

Who's buying?

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