On Tuesday morning, around 6:30 AM when we woke up, we immediately checked the news to see if the Transport Workers Union had launched a strike that would leave New York City without mass public transportation. And so it was. No subways. No buses. Cars only with four people minimum would be allowed into Manhattan. Biking, walking, skating and HOVing would be our only options. Coming from Brooklyn, none too appealing. These past two days we have webommuted to work and watched on TV thousands of people walk across the bridges in freezing temperatures, cram Grand Central and Penn Stations and, people standing at major entry points to the city, waving handwritten signs that specify their needs and wants. These men and women could use the help of a designer.
Most people have surely improvised their signs with whatever materials they found on the spot or before leaving home and clearly, none of them had InDesign or Illustrator and an at-the-ready printer. The Red Cross has set up stations at heavy arteries and are handing out free coffee and cookies. Could a designer set up a makeshift studio, with a laptop, a printer, some magic voltage from somewhere and start whipping out highly legible signs for these commuters? Maybe, maybe not. As sarcastic as this post may start to sound, when we talk about the “power” of graphic design, I think this would be it. I’m positive people would get picked up quicker if their destination were more clearly legible by the driver of a moving car. In a situation as chaotic as this, clear communication could cut through the noise. Typesetting, an activity we do every single day without much thought, would be as welcome as a warm cup of coffee.
If I were doing this — which, in all disclaimerity, I’m not — I would only use Hoefler & Frere-Jones’ Gotham (with its condensed version). Besides being thematically fitting, it has enough presence to stop a pigeon from pooping on your morning bagel. In this example, I would use the number 2 rather than the word two, as it allows for more room, specially in Gotham Condensed. Since TO GET TO THE CITY is a given, it’s OK to make it small.
Another excellent option, would be, again, from H&FJ’s collection, Champion Gothic with its slimming condensed styles that would allow for maximum coverage of a letter-sized page. Here, Champion Gothic Bantamweight knocks out the other commuters.
Some don’t actually need any help. Good job!
Others need help understanding what “four” means and might be better served by the finger than any sign.
And at the end of the day, it’s still a strike and people need to express themselves.
I might make it into the office tomorrow. My printer is not hooked so I might end up with a scribbled sign trying to get into the office where a copy of Gotham awaits me.