Saturday, October 15, 2011

Can Design Express the Public/Private Distinction?


According to this interesting post from the NY Times City Room Blog, signs like the one above have recently proliferated in New York City's Central Park, courtesy of the Central Park Conservancy.  The Conservancy, according to its website, "manages and maintains Central Park under contract with the city of New York."  If you ask me, an exclusive contract to manage and maintain city property would make an organization a government agency, but as is typical in modern urban governance both the City and the Conservancy are eager to characterize the latter as "private."  Hence, these signs, whose "Titling Gothic" font and "Conservancy Green" background are designed to exude the warmth and informality of a private organization rather than the arbitrary meanness of a regulatory entity, even as the signs tell you where you are and are not supposed to go.  The money quote, from the designer of the font in question: "None of the styles of Titling Gothic exude the kind of authoritarian insistence of Helvetica...."

Ken Stahl

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This explains why my students don't pay attention to my syllabus; I've not harnessed the authoritarian insistence of Helvetica. Is Titling Gothic only mildly suggestive? How much authoritative force does Garamond exude? Or Calibri? If I use the default setting--Times New Roman--do I lose them altogether?

Posted by: Adam MacLeod | Oct 16, 2011 5:26:32 PM