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Text Visibility & Lights

Last updated on May 18, 2019

A friend confided in me the other day of the frustration of getting a specific person to address actual text. I had to smile and point out that even with the Future of Text Symposium I have seen this too many times. It’s like talking about a physical window but people do not look at the frame or the glass, only what they can see through the window. The text is practically invisible to them.

The Lights

Having gone through a major renovation of our home and most recently bought ceiling and wall lights it struck me that we had been blind to lights before we had to really look at them for our renovation. Buying lights for our house is a multi-decade investment, not something to just do casually so we had to invest some time and effort to understand the different options available to us. The result is that we have a different context when we see lights now, they are not simply broadly fancy or functional.

(The same thing happened earlier with choosing window frames but the realistic options were not as broad so it did not have the same impact through of course it would have been more poetic for this analogy)

The Lobby

As is well described in The Mind is Flat (2018), we only take in what we need to and make up stories to explain what we see that’s new. Picture walking into a hotel lobby. You will make a near-instant decision of whether you feel it’s a fancy or basic hotel, whether it feels friendly or not and so on. If you are not a hotel lobby design or an interior decorator or enthusiast however, it’s unlikely you will look around and pay attention to the wall lights and the thickness of the carpet. You are blind to the details because you lack interest and context. This is of course exported by designers to make something look much more fancy and expensive than it is, simply through the use of superficial cues, but that’s another story.

I guess I feel then, like I am an interior designer obsessed with details the average hotel visitor is not. I am a text-thinker whereas the majority of people are text-readers. And that’s fine. But it helps me to look at it that way and now I need to build better text environments to augment people’s experiment no matter how text-superficial they are, in the same way a designer of hotel lobbies should design an experience in keeping with the hotel’s brand and make the visitor’s stay more appreciated, to the point of booking the next stay.

The Restaurant

Of course, when it comes to text and the issues we face, I feel more like a fireman saying the restaurant is on fire but people in general complain about all the heat and smell but can’t be bothered to get off their seats to douse the flames and only throw their water glasses at it while I beg them to help me extend the fire hose, but that’s just more water, more of the same thing. Why would we need that? We need better ways to talk about the flames….

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