Thursday, July 16, 2009

Say what you mean

Symbolic 1A illustrations in general are a shaky idea. For one thing, the morning paper tends to arrive when we mortals are spending our cognitive resources elsewhere; if you're going to be subtle, you need to be subtle loudly enough to be heard in the upper deck. For another, they're often amazingly unoriginal -- as in, stop us if you haven't seen the health-care cliche (below) that got Orlando's attention today.

But if you insist on using visual symbols to invoke a metaphor, do it right. That's where the Columbus front falls short. It's trying to show the "housing roller coaster," but it doesn't. It just shows "roller coaster," and if you get into the heds and graphics and wonder why everybody's talking about housing, rather than roller coasters, you have reason to be annoyed. The photo has sent its message pretty well before the poor coffee-deprived eye manages to work back to the smallest of the type overlaid on the photo.

I'm not at all convinced that "housing roller coaster" is a good metaphor anyway -- going by the trends shown in the 1A graphic, foreclosure rates make for the most boring roller coaster in history. But the bigger problem remains: "Housing roller coaster" might have been what you meant, but it isn't -- visually, overall -- what you said. It's hard for type to undo what a photo has done.


Blogger Katrina said...

In an Ohio paper, that combination of photo and big type would make me wonder if things are going south at Cedar Point.

4:32 PM, July 17, 2009  

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