Category Archives: Uncategorised

A stationary store

If there is one store that I feel increasingly irritated by it’s Paperchase. The Paperchase marketing department has, at some point, latched onto (and I’m guessing here) the fact that almost all stationery items are bought by women. I say women, the actual target market seems to have been pinpointed exclusively at pre-teen girls.

It appears it’s not enough to ‘feminise’ the product range, but what the targeted consumer supposedly needs is an uncompromising deluge of flowers, butterflies, cutesy illustrations of gooey-eyed animals, fluffy pink birds and more flowers. There’s nothing inherently wrong with these, and it’s not that it’s been decided those things are ‘girly’, and that girly things are less worthy of our respect. It’s just that a retail company, selling supposedly generic stationery items, is seemingly oblivious to the idea that there are some middle-aged blokes who also quite like a nice notebook. Just not a pink one with a picture of kittens on the front.

I love paper, notebooks, markers, pens and all that stuff as much as the next graphic designer, but I feel excluded and a bit self-conscious when I pay an increasingly rare visit to a Paperchase, I feel like I’ve wandered into My Little Pony’s nursery school.

What I’m most miffed by, is that the design of the product range is so one-dimensional and is so set in the ‘it’s girly or nothing’ mindset, that it’s completely off-putting. It would be fine if it was just a fixed number of items in a kind of sub-branded way, but it’s not. The feckin’ flowers are everywhere.

Type is what meaning looks like.

The Word is the newly opened ‘National Centre For The Written Word’ in South Tyneside. It is an impressive, contemporary building, housing all kinds of resources and facilities relating to the English language, in both written and spoken form. It is also why the design and more specifically, the typography, of the internal signage is such a huge disappointment.

The random mix of Alternate Gothic, various Helveticas and the not-quite-Comic-Sans set in both caps and upper/lower case, create an uncoordinated, confused mess. Those responsible for the internal graphic design have seemingly made no attempt to establish any kind of consistency, hierarchy or logical, thought-out structure to any of the signs. And the weird dark red/dark grey colours, which appear to be the main palette, do nothing for the aesthetics let alone the readability.

A missing word space after the ’N’ and a missing full stop after the ’T’ on the lower sign (LEARN& DISCOVER I. T) is just one example of how sloppy and ill-considered a lot of the signage is.

We know that ty­pog­ra­phy is not a mathematical prob­lem with one cor­rect answer. And so you might think that I’m being pedantic and perhaps a little harsh. Maybe. The fact is, this building sets itself up as THE centre for the written word and as such, I think it should have a bit more respect for how the written word is shown and how it is communicated, not just what it says.

Bad typography is everywhere, it certainly shouldn’t be here.