Signs that Function

Trash can asking to be used.

Trash can asking to be used.

Warning sign, it's icy here.

Warning sign, it’s icy here.

No smoking, and put your butt somewhere sensible.

No smoking, and put your butt somewhere sensible.

Elevator, going down.

Elevator, going down.

A trash can begs you to use it—its mouth open wide—like a baby bird waiting to be fed. You can practically hear it whimpering. Objects that manage to illustrate their function will usually make me stop for a second look. I wonder whether the designer is using their medium to engage the audience. To whom do they imagine they are speaking? I try to picture that person.

I find the yellow it’s slippery here pilon to be more of a prophesy than a warning. First one exclamation mark, then another, then the slip—if you follow that vertical line, I think you could get quite dizzy, and fall.

The No Smoking sign with what looks to be tree branches growing from the man’s mouth is confusing. If you should not smoke, then why is there no X over the smoker? In fact, why not use an image of a man putting out his cigarette butt properly? The ashtray is just around the corner.

I actually quite like the Lift sign. First of all, I like the retro design of the female and male icons. Secondly, I really like the literal illustration of the elevator in motion. My only question is— going up, or going down? Because I think I want to go up!


G is for Grownup

Giovane Cafe + Winebar, Vancouver

Graham tries his first cappuccino cup.

His small hands proudly clasping his cappuccino cup, Graham sips his drink and grins. I was at Giovane Cafe + Winebar with Graham and Susan, his mom, enjoying some brews. I had a latte, and Susan and Graham were sharing a hot chocolate. I had brought Graham a small cappuccino mug, the perfect size, so that he could drink from his own cup, and he really seemed to like this grownup ritual.

Giovane and Graham share the same initial g, and it was a very sweet moment with him and the cup that featured his letter. Lower case g is possibly the friendliest letter in the alphabet, especially the two-story version. Not everyone agrees. In her book I Wonder, Marian Bantjes writes that she finds this version a “baroque excess.” She prefers the single-story whose descender she calls “one of the greatest pleasures in life.” Well I think any version of g ranks up there in life’s pleasures.

The swirly capital version in The Alphabet by Alessandro Novelli is both divine, and ironic when you notice what his G illustrates. Illustrator Steve Mack seems to favour the one-story as well, as seen in his illustration “gum.”

The brand that is the alphabet has lived for centuries, and will continue on longer than Coca Cola. Along with the lower case g, its letters offer giggles, glee, and grandeur galore.