Tuesday, 22 April 2008

Cyclying? Yer what yer what yer what?

Additional thought required - please see also the Updates below in which I do some more thinking about this entry: please don't just read the main bit.

I was surprised by a new poster on the Tube. It is part of a campaign extolling the virtues of green travel, notably cycling and walking, and seems to be promoted by Islington Council (my old employers, aaah love'em), and their arty and environmenty partners. It's all very pretty and artistic. Mostly images, few words.

Among those few words it has "cycling", perhaps rather a key thing for this particular poster you might think, spelt "cyclying".

Sooo ... lets's just do the maths, shall we? It's pretty high-precision work so please bear with me a moment:

Design costs:

oooo about eight million pounds I should think


oooo about eight million pounds I should think

Tube poster sites:

oooo about eight million pounds I should think

Nice lunches for senior people on the project:

oooo about eight million pounds I should think

Proofreading (missed opportunity) costs:

ermmm ahem fourteeen pee or thereabouts.

So there we have it. Almost exactly thirty-two million pounds to get up on the wall something which says "we are jolly arty and good at lunching, but also careless and clueless", a highly avoidable state which it would have cost 14p to detect and correct.

At the risk of sounding even older and more curmudgeonly than I actually am (a difficult challenge), this seems to be getting more and more common. Whack the design out, it looks nice, that's fine, approved, gone. No-one with any care for text and its meaning and structure has ever looked at it because the management has ceded all its responsibilities to illiterate design wonks who can't spell and have the uneasy feeling that an apostrophe is some kind of green vegetable they don't like (they tried it at their Nan's once).


Update: 27th May. I'm now a little worried by this entry and I'm not sure whether it's better to take it down or edit heavily (are those revisionist?) or leave it with an additional comment, or what. For the time being, it's the latter, so ... my concern is that I've possibly done them an injustice. I didn't see the same poster again but I did see others in the same campaign, all at Finsbury Park station. At least one of these others had been inaccurately glued up, so that not all its edges were well-aligned. I'm now wondering whether this is what happened to the poster lambasted here, and therefore whether I owe lots of people an apology. I hate to think that in my haste to rant I may have been so unfair. I must say (a) that I'd have hoped I might notice the joins if that were the problem and (b) that I'm not sure how the join problem could have caused that particular spelling, but I really wish I had checked and was now sure. If you try it with paper (I did, believe me) then the closest you can easily get is "cycycling". But then maybe I remembered it wrongly, or some other subtle process (accidental folding perhaps?) had taken place. So, at worst I have lots of egg on my face and at best the doubt that I am currently experiencing is perhaps a salutary reminder to be a bit less mouthy and snotty (can you be both simultaneously? yuk!) when ranting about stuff, or at least to be 100% sure of my facts before indulging in such a rant. I am not sure how to resolve this - you could watch this space, but I'm not sure that you should.

Update the Second: 27th May. Right. I've looked at and thought about it a bit more. I've also edited - for factual accuracy only - the main entry, having found the right websites. I've added a picture too, but only till someone asks me to take it down.

Here are my conclusions:

  1. I shouldn't have been so rude about the spelling error. It's not a fantastically balanced approach. It would have been wiser to look at the whole project and try to understand it more first.
  2. It's a local project using local artists and has produced some beautiful work - if it's still up, visit a preview and see for yourself. The ones you're looking for are labelled "Islington DIY".
  3. The spelling error I mentioned is real (though ironically I misrepresented it - the error! - myself at first) and should not have been allowed to happen. It really is on the poster, and is not a glueing or folding issue.
  4. Several of the other posters have punctuation errors on also. I still feel quite strongly that public bodies should proofread text and correct it before it is displayed like this. Islington runs the borough's schools, for goodness' sake, yet manages to give the impression that it does not know the difference between "its" and "it's". No matter how local and community-ish a project is, you can and should get this stuff right. Otherwise you are offsetting the nice artwork with bad text, and you owe it to people not to do this.
  5. But I shouldn't rant so much, or at least not without knowing my facts a bit better.


Kat said...

You definitely need to get a picture of this for us to see; I'm quite intrigued.

I worked with a fancy hotel once. They had a sign in their lobby talking about their delicious food. I suppose I can forgive them (in 13 years) for the misuse of a semicolon, but using "desert" instead of "dessert" is a biiiig WHOOPS. Really, people?

Strawberryyog said...

I'll try but please don't hold your breath - I don't know how widespread the poster is and I don't usually have a camera with me on the Tube ... I agree that an image would be good, though. Sadly they do not seem to have a website about it, or not that I have yet found. :(

As for "desert" - aargh!!