Dyson ad: Text as more than just words

~ 16 October 2006 ~

The last couple of conferences I’ve presented at have seen me make a case for treating text as an integral part of the user interface — even the interface itself in many cases — instead of treating it as merely content.

The October ‘06 issue of Wired Magazine has a fantastic ad for Dyson that, while a printed example, perfectly illustrates the point I’ve been trying to make:

Dyson ad with text, 'Others clog [letters appear clogged], ours doesn't [letters open]'

Spot on, Dyson. [Insert vacuum-related pun here about the ad not sucking.] By filling in the “eyes” and “counters” (negative space in letter forms), the text transcends words and conveys additional meaning. When the text is transformed from a way to say something into a way to experience something, a richer user experience ensues; in this case, literally seeing the difference in suction. (More about counters and eyes in Poynter’s Elements of Typography.)



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1   Jina Bolton ~ 16 October 2006 at 08:28 AM

OOOH, I like this. I’m a big fan of using experimental typography.

(The pun reference had me literally laughing out loud…)

2   Shane Guymon ~ 16 October 2006 at 08:31 AM

Thats a great ad, I love typography, good typography is one of the most important principles of design on a communication stand point.

3   TJ ~ 16 October 2006 at 08:33 AM

What an incredible way to show the power of their vacuum. Outstanding typography!

4   Elac One ~ 16 October 2006 at 08:41 AM

I think experimental is a stretch. This is design 101 in its most simple form. But that’s probably why it’s so successful.

5   Tom ~ 16 October 2006 at 08:55 AM

Tickles me pink to see type modified in such a simple way to achieve such an effective result. The vacuums are damn nice, too.

6   Hugh G. ~ 16 October 2006 at 09:32 AM

I love the concept, but I’m not wild about the typography. Seems too 70’s, and the kerning is too loose for my taste (though I do love it in the dyson logo).

7   Shawn Blanc ~ 16 October 2006 at 11:13 AM

I think good typography and using type as design and not just content is one of the most chanllenging aspects of good design. Thanks for sharing the add.

8   Mark Boulton ~ 16 October 2006 at 11:22 AM

A bit of good old fashioned art direction. I like it. Print advertising is still one of the sectors of the design industry (here in the UK at least) where typographers are partnered with copywriters. As a result, good print advertising continues to be the showcase for clever, well executed typographic design - not only in the craft sense, but like you point out here Cameron, a communication sense too.

9   cristinamarie ~ 16 October 2006 at 12:01 PM

Creative advertisement. I think the use of blocking up the negative space within the letters is the best. It’s not trying to use some other external illustration to show X product vs. Dyson product. I like this.

10   Marc ~ 16 October 2006 at 12:38 PM

For deeper insight into print-as-user-interface, you should take a look at the design of “The Westing Game” by Ellen Raskin.

Raskin took some incredible steps to ensure accessibility for children, such as making sure the book’s side margins were as wide as an eleven-year-old’s thumb, making sure pages had plenty of white space, etc. - all this while ensuring the story captured the imagination.

You should really check out this site if you’re interested; it has great details and you can see notes she made for her art director and typographers: http://www.education.wisc.edu/ccbc/authors/raskin/intro.htm

I don’t really feel comfortable with the term “user interface design” applied to print work, though. Your Dyson example shows creative print design, but for very innovative print design work like Raskin’s book - work that crosses the boundary into tactile design - I believe a better description would be “Experience Design.” If you’ve read the Experience Design books by Nathan Shedroff, you know what I mean.

11   Cameron Moll ~ 16 October 2006 at 07:14 PM

Fascinating insight, Marc. And I think it’s worth noting that I’m not necessarily *applying* UI design to print work, but rather using a print piece to metaphorically demonstrate a facet of UI design.

12   Marc ~ 16 October 2006 at 09:05 PM

“but rather using a print piece to metaphorically demonstrate a facet of UI design.”

Oop, how embarrassing, Cameron…I thought I was getting your point, but I completely missed it.

Amusingly, this is a point I always try to remember when I work on interface mockups - that people skim over articles - and I completely skimmed this one. :)

13   Cameron Moll ~ 17 October 2006 at 07:33 AM

No worries!

14   milo ~ 18 October 2006 at 07:35 AM

Good typography, if every browser would show it the same way, it’ll be easier.


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