Signage and design are two things that fascinate me. In college, I had an unquenchable thirst for understanding signs and symbols and how they work. After all, they are the building blocks of human thought.
They help us organize our world, analyze it and make it more interesting. Thanks to symbols, we can manipulate our world in ways that we cannot do with the real objects that they represent. In the creative playground of our minds, for example, we can stack a house on top of a car on top of a planet. Or make a beautiful virgin spring out of a giant scallop floating over the ocean.
Our Spanish conquistadores named us indios, because Magellan was sailing for the Indies but instead landed on our soil. Then they mistook us for Indians (all brown-colored races looked the same to them, I guess). Indios, therefore, is a symbolic mistake and it is an appropriate word to embody our indiosyncracies.
In more practical applications, unknown to most of us, signages help us lead safe and convenient lives. Road accidents can be averted by a well-placed sign. Electric shock and other modern-day hazards are avoided everyday because of PICTograms that dePICT the dangerous consequences of mishandling machinery and gadgets.
Closely linked to signage is design -- that catch-all term that embodies the balancing of the proverbial tension between form and function. Design embraces a multifaceted field that includes the production of print material, audio-visuals, environmental spaces, products of both analog and digital nature.
Digital design is close to my heart, since I have earned a living designing books, magazines, posters, websites and some software interfaces. I have also written comicbooks and television scripts -- exercises that are predominantly verbal, but on closer look, contain elements of visual design too (since they also include camera angles and scene descriptions).
My favorites, when it comes to product design are Apple, Ikea and European furniture designers. One of these Europeans is Thomas Heatherwick from London, who runs the Heatherwick Studio.
In Europe, North America and Japan, signages get the appropriate attention they deserve. You only have to look at their street signs and railway posters and maps to see the thought that went into making signs easy to grasp. In comparison, our MRT signage is as chaotic as the minds who designed the inaccessible, tiring steps that lead to MRT in EDSA. (In the MRT stations, they once displayed a map with no indication of North, nor where people are in relation to the map (or in layperson's terms, the you-are-here mark). To add insult to injury, some maps were posted in the wrong orientation, such that if you were reading the map, you'd think the direction you were facing was bound for North Edsa when in fact you were facing the South Edsa-Taft direction).
Philippine cities will benefit a lot from a little improvement in de-sign-age, too. But our leaders and movers are simply too busy squabbling or enriching themselves -- a reflection of how much they care for our citizens and cities.
This blog will tackle issues of design and signage on both the macroscopic (theoretical, if you like) and microscopic perspectives. Please join me as we think and step through how to improve our country one sign at a time!
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