Missing Type

The Key Is What You Leave Out

A rather excellent campaign by the NHS, for raising awareness of the need for new blood donors, launched this week.

If it is possible to cut a word out, always leave it out

There is a decreasing number, year on year, of the amount of new donors, a trend they are understandably eager to check. A diverse array of signs, print material and social media profiles have dropped the A’s, B’s and O’s from their typography, in support of a campaign that has got loads of traction, being picked up by large brands and big publications.

Outside of this clearly being a great idea, this also got me thinking on words, type and meaning.

All of the copy in these examples remains legible, with the ironic exception of the NHS hospital signage. So how much does the eye and the mind really need to receive communications? If we play language letter Jenga with sentences until comprehensibility collapses, can we glean anything?

This campaign also reminded me of something I read a few years ago, which I have put below. Which is more language scrabble. Have a read:

I cnduo’t bvleiee taht I culod aulaclty uesdtannrd waht I was rdnaieg. Unisg the icndeblire pweor of the hmuan mnid, aocdcrnig to rseecrah at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it dseno’t mttaer in waht oderr the lterets in a wrod are, the olny irpoamtnt tihng is taht the frsit and lsat ltteer be in the rhgit pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed it whoutit a pboerlm. Tihs is bucseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey ltteer by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. Aaznmig, huh? Yaeh and I awlyas tghhuot slelinpg was ipmorantt! See if yuor fdreins can raed tihs too.

Assuming you could actually read the above relatively well enough, it serves as a reminder of how much the mind is capable of. You can stray from the norm and still be understood. A lot of output lacks craft and assumes the reader to be a simpleton.

Giles here at Gasp talks of ‘trimming the fat’ when it comes to copy, which is an important and an acquired copywriting skill. In terms of story-telling, it is the words you leave out that distinguishes great writers from the good ones. Many top authors speak of the importance of this.

“If it is possible to cut a word out, always leave it out.” – George Orwell

It is beyond the scope of this blog to get bogged down in semantics, or even semiotics, but the Green & Black’s brand is one of the participants in the NHS campaign, and serves as a good example to dissect a little. That combination of font and words, says to me: quality. But why?

If it is possible to cut a word out, always leave it out

“Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.” - Anton Chekhov

Well, if we play word association with ‘organic’, I say; expensive, middle-upper class.

The use of an ampersand symbol always talks of long-established heritage to me. I somewhat embarrassingly remember in my dissertation changing all the ‘and’s’ to ‘&’, naively thinking it was the correct, ‘posh’ way to do it, before my tutor pulled me up on it and said; “what are you doing? Change them all back.”

The use of a gold dark tone for the classic looking font speaks of quality, in an understated way.

Umberto Eco proposes that every cultural phenomenon may be studied as communication, which is a fascinating theory. You’ll be surprised how many different things can convey your brand identity, yet also potentially undermine it, if not up to scratch.

I’ll end on this quote, which beautifully conveys saying a lot more with less words, whilst allowing your audience’s mind to do the rest.

“Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.” - Anton Chekhov

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