The Cost of Detail
The climate control has finally settled on a cool- what seems to be- 21 degrees celsius. The optimum in-car temperature that keeps the air fresh and crisp, while keeping the condensation from building up on the inside of the little DS3s windscreen. There is some report about traffic build-up along Jan Smuts due to faulty traffic lights. Typical, slight overcast weather with a touch of rain and the traffic lights short circuit! Yip, just another day in damp Johannesburg traffic with the rest of the rat-racers trying to get home, too concerned about my time, my delays, my lane, my consumption, my family, or my work. So while I choose to avoid the lack of distance that I still need to cover, my attention is drawn to a massive roadside billboard. I mean, you can’t help notice it, it’s bright yellow; some contrast to the grey skies and red brake lights. While gazing at this monstrous lump of advertising, I soon start to unpack the construction of how, what, and why it is there. Drawing upon my 4 015 days of somewhat advertising, design, marketing, strategy, and production knowledge, I start to decode the titanic yellow sales pitch. First, I start with the overall design. Stinking yellow background, large white font, a logo made up of blue, yellow, and a splash of red. Good, I think I know who this is for. Next, large white, bold copy with a number of smiley-emoji. Ok, simple, good. Now for the message. We… We… I know it is supposed to say “welcome” but I cannot move passed the second letter. Why is this so hard to read? My eyes start to dart around the letters, the layout, the height between the peaks and bases of the fonts, and the top and the bottom of the billboard. Is the copy aligned; are they using the same font? All of this seems to be ok, so why is it that when I have stared at this billboard for the better part of 3 minutes, I can’t remember what it said? This major piece of messaging that has been debated over a boardroom table for weeks, the layout that has passed multiple art directors, and was finally approved by the creative director, which only then gets passed over to the client for final sign off. Countless agency hours, scrapping of creative thought and progress, realignment to original strategies and multiple e-mails, phone calls, debates, and negotiating with media buyers about final media placement. All of this and I cannot, for the life of me remember what the stupid thing said. Was it relevant? Probably not, but at that point I decided to give that piece of ‘artwork’ my time to consume a message, more precisely, to consume that message. I was the ideal target, and yet I could not unstick my attention passed the second letter! After I had settled from the slight mental panic I had gone through, I looked away for a few seconds and looked backed at the billboard. There it was, the reason why I couldn’t take in the full message… The particular font that was used was a sans serif font (if you don’t know what a sans serif font is, click here; although a few letters, like the letter ‘l’ had a little serif thrown onto the end of it. This meant that these ‘serified’ letters would now have a slightly different kerning. What is kerning? Glad you asked, here is an image to explain.