London Signage 03: m*ta-avoidance

Les mis en garde du métro londonien contre un comportement agressif des voyageurs utilisent la typographie et le remplacement de voyelles par des signes autrement plus habituellement utilisés pour camoufler les jurons.

Since last year, Transport for London has been running a series of posters aiming at improving passengers’ behaviour. To soften the underlying stern injunctions (”Don’t push!”, “Don’t block the closing doors to squeeze in at the last moment!”, “Keep your music volume down!”, “Don’t eat smelly or drippy food on the Tube!”), the designers have added graphical elements to the lettering — playing with fonts, molding the typography into cute little signs: the dripping fat from a portion of fries, the sound waves emanating from an iPod.

Here is the poster that deals with aggression towards Tube employees:

Transport for London anti-aggression signage

This is the first time I’ve seen a semiotic usage of the avoidance characters outside comic strips. By replacing some vowels with an asterisk, an exclamation mark and an at-sign, a layer of meaning is added to the otherwise somewhat cryptic statement “Don’t take it out on our staff”. The smaller print refers to assault, but given the visual effect, I’m sure verbal abuse is covered, too, by this warning.

  • 2006-03-03
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Unsettling. The domain name of the young French Catholics’ web portal is, I’m not kidding, (Hint, if you don’t get it right away: the number 6, six, is pronounced [sis].) The logo looks faintly mathematical: in X L6. And the site is even web standards compliant. Hosanna!

Via Tristan Nitot.

Via Dominique at the Petit Champignacien Illustré: The non-profit association graphê is trying to drum up support for their online petition, which asks the French state to preserve the collection and archives of the Imprimerie nationale (the national printing works), an institution that has existed since 1539 and whose premises are currently being sold off:

The historic collection it holds - due to be so dispatched - is a unique, priceless testimony of the history of the written form, from the 16th century to the present. It includes the Cabinet des poinçons, or Punch Room, holding hundred of thousands of letterform and character punches, for both western and oriental scripts; functional workshops - a foundry, presses for typography, lithography and copper-plate engraving work, stitching and binding - as well as a library with over 30,000 volumes, and the archives of the State printing works. Set up in 1539 by King Francis I, at the same time as the Collège de France, the national center of academic excellence, this collection stands as the memory of specialized know-how and expertise, and as a center for creation, now fated to disappear if its continued survival is not ensured.

Typography and its history and know-how don’t have a lobby, not even in such a relatively history-conscious place as France. The petition text is online in 26 languages.

Over at Crooked Timber, they are hosting a seminar on Susanna Clarke’s novel Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell (book via The link goes to the introductory post, from which you can jump to individual articles, including one from the author. It must be the very wintry autumn we’ve been having here in Paris that has […]

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Adobe’s site has a beautiful page about the history of the ampersand, the way it developed from a ligature of the letters e and t of the Latin word et. (Via Language Hat, who got it from aldibronti at Wordorigins.) In French, the &-sign is or used to be called pirlouette, perluette, perluète, éperluète or esperluette. […]

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