am not a great user of Facebook. If I
post something and it gets a handful of likes and the odd comment, I’m doing
well. So I was all the more surprised recently when something I put up sparked
a whole host of likes, comments and discussion from a wide range of people, for
whom I’d clearly touched a nerve.
|Exhibit A: exquisite torment provided by programme design|
can it have been been – political? No
no, stay clear of all such, say I. The dreaded B word? As if. Enough misery about
that as it is.
All I did was upload an example of a blight that has been seeping gradually
into the printed world for the past few years, until now it affects every play,
opera, concert and musical programme, magazine, brochure, exhibition text,
restaurant menu and just about everything printed you can think of. Even
websites aren’t immune. It is a kind of exquisite torment dreamt up by
designers to tempt you with what looks like an interesting, important piece of
writing – only to make it impossible for you to read it. Pale grey text on off-white paper. Small
chunks of green writing set by themselves – presumably to highlight their meaning
– in yellow background boxes. Items on menus printed in such tiny point sizes,
diners need a pocket magnifying glass if they aren’t to go hungry (not helped
by the fashion for restaurants to plunge their customers in Stygian gloom so no
one can see the menu anyway).
I know my Great Age is part of the problem. The majority of designers and
editors, presumably under 40, are blithely unaware that lavender type on mauve
paper is illegible for Oldies Like Me. But a heck of a lot of Oldies Like Me go
to the theatre, restaurants and art exhibitions, and I can’t help feeling that
if the directors of these have gone to all the trouble to commission articles
from distinguished writers and experts in their publications, why wouldn’t they want a large
proportion – who knows, perhaps even the majority – of their clientele to read
them? What, for goodness sake, is wrong with black and white?
|Art by Yasmina Reza at the Oxford Playhouse|
back to Exhibit A, above. I had never seen Yasmina Reza’s brilliantly witty,
poignant play about the balance of power in longterm friendships, until it came
to Oxford Playhouse last month. Intrigued, I badly wanted to read the interview
with the playwright in the programme and was faced with not only pale type on
pale paper but, ye gods, splashes of paint daubed across the text (a, you know,
clever reference to the play’s title, Art).
OK, so I managed eventually, the next day, with the aid of bright sunshine, but
it was a slow process. Whereas if it had been black on white, like the article I’m writing
here, I’d have skipped through it like a young fawn.
|Skipping through black and white print like, er, one of these |
(photo by Mathew Schwartz)
I should start a Campaign for Printing in Black and White, snappily known as
could be on to something, you know.
Find out more about Griselda Heppel here:
and her children's books:
Oh yes, Ann, tinsy winsy instructions on food packaging - that’s another infuriating phenomenon!
I remember my agent saying she couldn't read the white text on a black background on my new website, and as my eyes get older I begin to see what she meant, but even that's easier for me than pale yellow on off-white paper!