Tuesday, October 27, 2020

German engineering? Great. German typography? Not so much.

     This doesn't happen often. You notice something done well then, taking a closer look, see that it is also done poorly.
     Look at the back of this Porsche I pulled up behind at red light the other day. My eye went, as it has before, to the word "PORSCHE" and I admired the font, the spacing, the neat elegance of the stylish typography. Very cool. You pay ... $97,000 for a sports car, the name of the maker should be nice. And it is.
     Now look underneath. At the figure under "PORSCHE." Kinda hard to read, right? I mean, not impossible. Not indecipherable. You squint, and you can eventually, as I did, see that it is "911," which makes sense, because that is an iconic, perhaps the iconic Porsche model number, used for decades. But the "9" is so compressed it looks like a rectangle. And the "11" almost looks like a lower case "n." You'd think at some point some German engineer, or designer, would look at the back of the car and say, "You know ..."
     But they didn't.
     Not the biggest deal in the world. We covered that yesterday. And will cover it again tomorrow. For today, I suppose there is almost a comfort, in knowing that even a huge German luxury carmaker like Porsche can fuck up the name of their own car in such a small yet noticeable way. Though it does make you wonder: if they get that wrong, what else did they get wrong? Oh well, join the club. If 2020 is remembered for anything, it will be the Year of Screw-ups, big and small. 


  1. I pass signs on buildings every day that are supposed to tell the passersby who owns the building or what company, store ore restaurant is in it.
    Why spend the money on an expensive sign if no one can identify who or what it is?
    At least 40% are unreadable & if you're on a expressway or tollway, 75% are unreadable. The biggest offenders are those that have their sign in a fancy script, which is often impossible to read.
    Then there are the godawful street signs in Park Ridge, idiotic vertical things that are also impossible to read at speeds over 5 MPH! Apparently a vestige of the 1890s, when you went by on horse or in a horse drawn buggy.

    1. I was not aware that Park Ridge still had their old vertical signage. Other suburbs have used the same kind. I grew up in one of them. The signs were 1920s concrete obelisks that resembled the Washington Monument, only rounded on top instead of pointed.

      They were still in their original unpainted state when I was young. The street names were actually stamped into their surfaces, which made them quite difficult to read by day, and nearly illegible after dark, because of the dim streetlights. When I got older, the town painted the obelisks white, and outlined the letters in black.

      The colorization process helped to increase readability. But the signs were aging, crumbling, and showing the effects of Midwestern weather. So they were all replaced with standard black-and-white horizontal signage in the Sixties. Those old obelisks were probably not missed by many.

    2. Park Ridge's obelisks let you know you're not in Chicago or Niles anymore. They can be read in daytime, sometimes. Cities figured out long ago that raising the signs above car-roof level made them more useful. Park Ridge doesn't seem to care. At night you better know where you're going. Instead of clinging to the past, why not go high tech with illuminated street signs. Solar cells, LEDs or better tech than I'm aware of are probably just waiting for a dark street suburb to see the light.

  2. I doubt whether Porsche cares whether we hoi poloi can read "911" on their vehicles. It probably serves more like a secret Masonic handshake, self identifying the cognoscenti from the ignorant herd. Which reminds me of a Kipling story featuring a small Masonic sect (no doubt invented by Kipling) that called themselves Janites and who could recognize each other by their knowledge of esoteric elements of Jane Austen's writings.


    1. Many people think that Rudyard Kipling invented the word when he wrote his short story "The Janeites"--about a group of British soldiers in World War I who found relief from the horrors of war in Jane Austen’s work. Her stories once again became hugely popular at the end of the twentieth century. Thanks to new film adaptations, popular interest in her work has exploded.

      There are two kinds of Jane Austen fans, according to my wife, who happens to be among them. One is originated in the 19th century and is comprised of the hard-core academics, who tend to disdain the second group, along with all the popular culture associated with it.

      That second group is what some consider to be the "real Janeites," who adore all things Austen--the novels, the films, the sequels, and all the merch available at Jane Austen Society meetings.That description makes them sound similar to their ubiquitous cousins, the Trekkies, whose very nickname is often used insultingly. As is the term "Janeite", apparently.

      Jane Austen is more than just an author now. She's also a cultural icon. Which means that "The Janeites" are not just characters created by Kipling. They really do exist.

  3. The 911 looks like an afterthought, either by the manufacturer or the owner.

  4. Respectfully, you have totally missed the point. The 911 badge that you find hard to read is perfect because it is, itself, an icon. The badge has been essentially unchanged in the last 60 years. The design language of the car which has evolved slowly and methodically to the beautiful form you see today, while never once undergoing a "radical" change, is one of the things that makes a Porsche a Porsche. Any fan of the brand knows and appreciates that. Here's an image of the 911 badge on a 1964 model year. Look familiar? https://www.netcarshow.com/porsche/1964-911_2.0_coupe/1280x960/wallpaper_0c.htm

    1. I wouldn’t say Neil missed the point. Only aficionados like yourself would have known that. Credit to both of you. Neil for an interesting observation. You, for your knowledge and passion.
      You did make me look however and of course, you are right. Pretty cool.


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