rob waller

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Ageism again

As much as through landmark birthdays such as 18, 30 or 40, we mark the passage of time as we transit through market researchers' age bands. Halfway through each decade, we have to leave, say, 25-34 behind and admit to 35-44.

That is, until we reach such a great age that the market researchers, who I imagine to be in their early twenties, think we must now be gaga, and no longer of interest.

It's usually 65... which I plan to reach in three years time. But recently I got a taste of the kind of rejection I must get used to. Faced with the options below, I didn't make a note of the brand (being so old I am obviously forgetful).

Relegating all oldies to a single 55+ category lumps me together with my mum. I was born in the 50s, and grew up with TV, rock and roll and air travel. She was born in 1919, and grew up in a world where milk was still delivered by horse and cart.

This questionnaire is not just ageist, it's bad market research. The boomer generation has more money to spend, and the time to spend it, than many younger people.



Ageist imagery

























I'm puzzled by a story that's appeared in The Sunday Times and other papers:
"The road sign that shows a hunched couple clutching a stick as a warning to drivers to slow down should be banned because it deters employers from giving the over-50s a job, says the government’s tsar for the elderly.  
Ros Altmann, the business champion for older workers, is to press Jo Swinson, the women and equalities minister, at a meeting next month to act on the grounds that the sign is discriminatory."
I don't understand why Ros thinks this image depicts the over-50s. Surely it depicts the over-90s, and if/when I reach that age I will be glad of a sign near my care home to warn speeding drivers.

In any case, this icon is more than counterbalanced by the usual Getty Images retired couple: slim, tanned and happy, the male with a full head of hair, they flaunt their generous pensions as they cavort hand in hand on beaches in exotic locations, on cruise ships, or pursuing some unfeasibly athletic retirement pastime. When things turn ugly between the have-it-all boomers and Generation Rent, I will blame Mr and Mrs Getty for winding up the young 'uns.



Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Moving house and brand experience

We're moving house, so are trying to tell all the organisations we deal with – producing some interesting variations in responses. The patterns so far are:

I email them, and they reply.
I email them, they don't reply but make the change (as evidenced by mail going to the new place).
I email them, they don't reply and I don't know if they've made the change.
I email them and they mail me a form to fill in and send by post.
I log on to a secure site and make the change, and it's fine.
I write them and they make the change but don't reply.
I write to them and they don't reply (yet).
I write to them and they reply by post to the new address.
I write to them and they reply to both the old and new addresses.
I write to them. They write back to insist I call them, thus experiencing the phone menu hell I was trying to avoid. Thanks, John Lewis Partnership Card and Tesco Bank.
I call them and they make the change by phone.
I call them and they send a form to fill in and post.

Some of the replies wish me well for the move, which is nice.
One of them, a charity, apologises in advance that they were too late to stop a marketing mailshot.

One of them includes a snitty remark about giving them at least a month's notice next time. It's from an academic organisation, obviously.


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Photojournalism today

I'm not sure exactly when it happened, but newspaper photography is now rarely about news. Sometimes the connection between the story and the image is tenuous, sometimes downright misleading, and sometimes just daft. A few recent examples:



























The story is about people in housing benefit. The stock image is of the Barbican in the City of London, where one bedroom flats fetch over £900,000. I suspect that few residents are getting housing benefit.





The story is about female employees at tech firms being offered the chance to put off having children by having their eggs frozen. "Find me a picture of some frozen eggs", the art director cried.




The story is about Bitcoin. Every story about Bitcoin has a picture of a coin. But the whole point is that it's not a coin.


Friday, October 03, 2014

The other Robert Wallers

Please excuse the egocentricity of this post, but I'm excited to discover I am listed in the Wikipedia entry 'PG Wodehouse minor characters'.

I've often wondered why every other Waller I come across seems to be called Robert.

There's obviously the Bridges of Madison County one, but there's also an election expert who emerges every four years or so, a psychiatrist whose emails I occasionally get by mistake, and the Rob Waller Band (which I only discovered by vainly googling myself). And my grandfather.

Fats Waller was an exception, of course. He was Thomas.

When I worked for the Open University in the 1970s, there were three Wallers on the staff, all Roberts. One of them was in the IT department, and as design tools became computerized our interests converged, and I started to be less and less sure whether mail was intended for me or him.




Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Postal irony

Parcelforce left a card saying they'd tried to deliver a parcel. Other couriers leave it with a neighbour, but they take it to the post office in the middle of town. I was away so Mrs Simpleton went to the post office to pick it up. Queued for ten minutes but they wouldn't give it to her because she wasn't me. So I had to go back into town to queue again and pick it up instead, armed with photo ID and proof of address.

Sorry to go on about this, but it's traditional when blogging about consumer gripes.

So it was nice to see how they've branded this service:



Monday, September 08, 2014

Vienna is the home of Isotype, but...

... these are the icons in the metro, next to seats reserved for people in gas masks... apparently.




Good morning? No, good night.

It's 2 seconds after midnight, and Sky News has just wished me Good Morning. That's just wrong. It's only morning in the Land of Pedants. For the rest of us it's still evening.

Don't ask me exactly when morning begins – I just know that it's after I've gone to bed. And dawn might also be involved. Or perhaps at 2am – the time they choose for changing the clocks when summer time starts or ends.

I recently learned that in Japan they extend the 24 hour clock when, for example, giving times for train journeys that end after midnight. So a train might depart City A at 22.30 and arrive in City B at 25.30.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Bin Roman

Here's a tip if you're trying to remember which house number your typographer friend lives at. Look for the serifs.



























(bin: Reading Borough Council; design: Martin Andrews).

Five is an odd number

This must be the oddest 5 I've seen... on the former Robinson and McKewan factory in Birmingham's Jewellery Quarter.


Wish I'd thought of this

Have a look at these brilliant uncropped road signs. I'm not web-literate enough to know who to credit but here's a link: http://imgur.com/oU4kalZ


Monday, August 25, 2014

Boingo email fail

I've been subscribing to Boingo the wifi service that connects you to hotspots which would otherwise want to charge you. I don't seem to need it that often, but £3.95 a month is OK as insurance. But I just noticed on my bank statement that £3.95 is now £5.95, a 50% hike. 

So I've searched my emails for their notification, and found it in trash. It is headed 'Boingo Mobile: More Hotspots, More Secure, More Value' and I trashed it because it appeared to be a marketing newsletter.

It does tell me about the price hike... near the end of the email which I stopped reading after the title. Loss of trust --> do I really need it? --> cancelled.




I'm also wary of products I can't pronounce. 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Visualisation of under the street



























They are digging up the streets in the centre of Reading, and guys with spray cans have been creating a nice visualization of the project on the pavement.

Embiggen – a new word marches on

If you look carefully at this clip from the Daily Telegraph web edition, under the picture it says 'Click to embiggen'.

I'm curious about this choice of word – is it possibly a little sardonic, given the topic?

It's not one I've seen before, so I looked it up. Apparently, it started in a 1996 episode of the Simpsons: read about it on the Future Journalism Project's blog.

There's no doubt we need a single word for 'make bigger'. Somehow 'enlarge' always sounds more written than spoken.
In our studio we used to use the verbs 'to bigger' and 'to smaller' when discussing type size, as in 'Can you try biggering the headline there?'.

Monday, August 18, 2014

'Write as you would speak.' But not you, man on the train.

One end of a phone conversation, heard on the train:
"We need to discuss which people we can leverage in each work stream in terms of capability uplift."

Apparently people really do say things like that, aloud, to other people, throwing into doubt the traditional advice on clear writing: 'write as you would speak'. 


Sunday, July 13, 2014

World Cup brand values: the classical elements in action

Apparently the World Cup in Brazil has four brand values: Freedom, Solidarity, Passion and Diversity. This perfectly demonstrates my pet theory that most sets of corporate values fit the classic elements: Fire, Earth, Water, Air.

There's usually one about warmth or passion. Clearly that's Fire. And there's usually one about being real or grounded. That's Earth.

Air represents freedom, flexibility, creativity or imagination. Water represents nourishment, responsibility or caring, and I'm including the World Cup's 'Diversity' value here.

Working with Vodafone some years ago, I remember their first two values as Red and Rock Solid (no prizes for guessing which elements there). Their third and final value was Restless (Air). But as a customer I could sometimes have wished they had a Water value too.



Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Through the window

When you design a document for delivery in a window envelope, always check the post office guidance. It's important that no private information appears in the window along with the address.

Mail received by my son today. From the Post Office.




Sunday, June 22, 2014

Which way to the metro?

We encountered this sign at Copenhagen airport recently, looking for the metro.

I went for the at-a-glance visual cluster and headed for the left. Jenny saw the horizontal grid, and headed for the right. I eventually followed.



The Copenhagen metro: a serious place for serious people


Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Over- and under-achieving

Reading University are asking alumni for donations to a bursary fund to celebrate Professor Michael Twyman's 80th birthday. He is still active as a teacher and researcher in the typography department, has just published a 728 page comprehensive history of chromolithography, and has been an inspiration to me since my interview for a place on his course in 1970.

If you want to support the bursary fund, the URL is https://alumni.reading.ac.uk/support/typography

Be prepared for a slightly comical experience. To select your title - Mr or Ms, of example - you have to scroll down a list of choices that make you feel something of an underachiever. Of course, compared to Michael most of us are exactly that.




And I've never been asked to choose my county from a list that includes not only Berkshire but Bavaria and Baden-W├╝rttemberg.




Thursday, March 27, 2014

Information Design Journal - first notes

While I was looking for the first conference programme, I came across these coffee-stained notes I made in 1978, about the journal that was launched in 1979 as Information Design Journal.


Information Design Conference 1984 - the programme

I've been looking through old archives looking for visual evidence of the first Information Design Conference (Cranfield, 1984). The 2014 Information Design Conference in London is the thirtieth anniversary of that first event  - here's the programme, printed on an Epson dot-matrix printer.


Dublin signs




Now wash your hands

There's a very effective eeeuw factor in this notice in a Royal College of Art toilet. I don't know who did it, but give them a prize.


Tired and tested

Two nice typos came my way today.

"Using tired and tested methods..." So true!

"I taught we were planning to..." This one has to be said in an Irish accent, and it's revealed as a homophone.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Drawing the line










International sign standards use a red circle to prohibit whatever is depicted inside. This isn't intuitive enough, so many add a diagonal red line... but of course this obscures part of the pictogram. So I like the way these signs on the Luas light rail system in Dublin run the red line behind the pictogram.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Signs of January

Signs seen this month.


Full marks to Gatwick Airport for these large 'print' flight information displays. You can see from a long way away, and if your sight's not too good you can get close enough to read them.



I stared at this sign in the back of a Dublin taxi. If I'm going to the airport I'm in the taxi, am I not? To be sure.



The words clear up a mystery that's been in the air on this blog since I posted this one

I don't know why they need a warning sign. It's obvious that if you let go to scratch your arse, you're going to drop the box.


This was on a train, and the magnets stop the lid dropping down. But I'm curious about the risk analysis that led to this sign. 




Legal information design

As distinct from the illegal sort...

This post is to plug a conference we've organized on the topic of Clear Legal Information (the title we settled on). It's on 9 April, in London, following on from the Information Design Association conference.

Tickets are still available (not surprising as I put them on sale about an hour ago).

Mind you, if I ruled the world some kinds of information design would be illegal.



Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Ageing boomers

A few weeks ago I posted a moan about ageist ads on Facebook. Then I posted about some instructions I couldn't understand. 


Now I get an email from the University of Cambridge Engineering Department advertising courses on inclusive design. As they put it, "Poorly considered design affects millions of people in the UK and worldwide – in particular, the ageing, baby-boomer generation – who have difficulty using everyday products and services, from mobile phones and food packaging to telephone banking" 


Ah, I get it now. For years, we baby boomers, born in the years after the war, were the rock and roll generation, the hippies who broke the mould. I think we were probably the generation who developed personal computers and the internet. But now we're hitting our sixties, we are old people 'who have difficulty using everyday products and services'. 


Sorry, Clas Ohlson, it isn't you, it's me. I will ask the next young person who comes to our house to programme that timer for me.

 If you want to know more about that Cambridge course (they are very good), the link is http://www.inclusivedesigntoolkit.com/betterdesign2/training/training.html

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Baffled but whose fault?


I recently bought a timer device from Clas Ohlson, the Swedish household store that's opened a branch in my town.

I have been completely defeated in my attempts to set it up. The first evening I put this down to tiredness, so I tried again in the morning.

There seem to me to be four possibilities:

  • 1. the timer is faulty
  • 2. the timer is faulty because I hurled it across the room
  • 3. the instructions are not clear
  • 4. I am too dim to understand the instructions.
My question is: am I entitled to a refund? Yes, if option 1 is true, but how do I prove it? But shouldn't I also be refunded if either option 3 or 4 is true, since the product (the switch and its instructions) are not usable by me (the customer of average intelligence). And perhaps also if option 2 is true because it is the inevitable outcome.

Have a look for yourself. I think the giveaway is the warning at the beginning.





Monday, December 16, 2013

Inconsistent scale alert

Check out the scale on this graphic from The Guardian's website. I hope they're not suggesting that 40 men are worth 60 women.


Reasons to avoid Facebook

Ageist targeted advertising. And it goes on... annuity calculator, river cruises


Sunday, December 15, 2013

More stupid questions


More stupid security questions, this time from the Transport for London Oyster card website.

I'm surprised the first question doesn't have a drop-down menu offering 'Fatso / Spotty / Dweeb / Stinker'.

When I appeared at school wearing spectacles for the first time, a rather old-fashioned teacher took to calling me 'gig lamps', but I'm not planning to share that with Oyster thanks very much.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Apostrophie's

Aaaaaaargh! No! No! No! Please don't tell the Apostrophe Society about this sign in the Charing Cross Hospital.












Thanks to Sallie Morris for sending me this.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Getting naked in Glasgow?

Please dispose of your pants in designated receptacles.


Why is so much market research incompetent?

Everyone now and then I get sent a questionnaire, and I try to help by responding. Today I got one from All Bar One (bar + food chain), who said I'd used their wifi recently (i.e., that's how they got my name).

These questionnaires almost always have an impossible question. In this case it was 'how often do you eat out at All Bar One'. The answer is 'never', which means all the follow-up questions are impossible. I can lie, or I can crash out.


Friday, October 25, 2013

Two signs

From Syros. Excellent flying wheelchair, and the little girl and her dad seem very cheerful. Well, I hope it's her dad.


The information design summer school remembered

We've just back from the Information Design summer school on the island of Syros. Here's our happy band of participants, and some scenes from the course and the island. We organised it in partnership with our hosts, the University of the Aegean, and the IIID. A very memorable week.














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