Monday, January 30, 2012

Signs! (The Blog Post)

First the bad news:

Though not technically a sign, this tiny and ridiculous graphic of Ronald McDonald is used in an attempt to persuade fast food patrons to be responsible and discriminating in their disposal of meal-related refuse. However, judging by the considerable amount of filthy, soggy McDonalds sacks mashed beneath train tracks and strewn along the shoulders of highways nationwide, I would wager that this ploy is not very effective at all. While the message is fairly clear (Ronald McDonald, the clowny corporate mascot, clearly thinks it's fun as hell to toss cups into appropriate waste receptacles), there are some glaring errors in the placement and overall execution of the image.

Though it may not be immediately apparent in this photograph, this particular incarnation of "Brandclown Discards Garbage" is slightly under an inch tall/wide. It is also on the side of the bag, up toward the top- most definitely in the section that gets wrinkled/folded/crumpled when "closing" the bag. On other McDonalds paper products (such as cups and ice cream cone wrappers), the image is even smaller, sometimes to the point of being nighwhat unidentifiable. Obviously, the small scale is a major contributing factor in the ineffectiveness of this graphic.

When such a piddly symbol is placed so inconspicuously among large, vibrant expanses of red and yellow, it hardly grabs a viewer's attention. The image is, well, wimpy. There's no slogan, no catchy tagline, nothing but the red ink picture of ol' Ronald. Thusly, the graphic focuses more heavily on brand than the original intent- a fact also evidenced by that ominous circled "r" hovering next to the left foot. It seems more like a half-hearted and unenthused suggestion rather than a Granted, no namby-pamby clown drawing on a grease-soaked fast food sack is going to firguratively force the viewing public to chuck their drink cups into wire wastebins, but it lacks the dire sense of urgency present in signs with the primary concerns of psychological persuasion toward environmentally conscious acts. After all, the environment is important (or so I've heard); it is the home of every personshape, animalshape, and plantshape, whether they like it or not. One would think McDonalds would apply something a bit more earnest and heartfelt, maybe even a little pithy (some cheesey graphic of the earth or a leaf or a bird or something). Nope. We have Enviro-Clown.

Now, the good news... or what passes for it anyway.

Though not strictly environment-related (unless you consider the strewn bodies of pedestrians to be an environmental concern) this sign does exactly what it sets out to do. Located along a residential sideroad in Somerville, New Jersey, this sign warns drivers to maintain a slow speed so as to avoid accidents. The sign is bright and reflective, situated conspicously beneath a streetlight and not obscured by any bushes or other signs. There are speed limit signs (25 mph) placed sporadically up and down the street, supplementing this sign's effect with a concrete and explicit number for drivers to adhere to.

This particular sign is largely text, but the text is clear and concise (once you get over the broken rhyme, that is) in its aim. The most effective aspect of this sign, however, is the mention of the neighborhood's youth as an example. While the sign may indeed protect pedestrians of all ages, as well as the odd squirrel and escaped farm animal, it focuses on the safety of children- people we are almost universally compelled to protect. This sign's implied consequences are unspeakably ugly and resonate with us in an almost primal way (I hope). There is a similar sign two streets over that reads "Drive 25, Keep Kids Alive." That one may be even more effective, as it uses the word "alive," the opposite of which is clearly "dead," so the aforementioned implied consequences are stated even more directly. Note, however, that such a sign was difficult to photograph due to its placement. Sorry about that.

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