Saturday, 4 May 2013

Through a glass darkly

This strikingly striped taxi is a moving advert for budget fashion accessory chain Aldo, spotted from a bus going up Tottenham Court Road. The taxi overtook the bus, and then both obligingly slowed down just as I got my camera adjusted. The design is one of several by graphic designer Malika Favre, all featuring geometric backgrounds and a face with sunglasses. I dont think it depicts anything specific that Aldo actually sells. Coordinated cycle chic types might think, matching yellow sun specs to go with my yellow bike, but they don't really have them in bright colours.

Photo-based graphics on vehicles is a bit of a trend, printed on flexible plastic film that moulds to the contours of the bodywork. This one works because it's simple and emphasises the pleasing curves of the London taxi. Others are nastier: the Sky vans with lurid photos of TV shows are particularly ugly. There's a lorry I see regularly, printed to look like an oversized wooden crate of potatoes. Sometimes you might wish all vehicles were dignified dull colours with discreet lettering in a nice serif font, preferably gold, like the old Hovis ads. But of course in those days the streets were actually plastered with painted signs on house ends, shopfronts, billboards and sandwich-man boards, buses and commercial vehicles, you name it, huge lettering shouting out trade names and unproven claims. Even more visual clutter than we have today, apparently unregulated and completely lacking in wit or irony. Some of those old signs survive, washed out half-readable remnants left to fade away quietly. The Aldo shrink-wrap, on the other hand, may be here today but it will be gone forever tomorrow.