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Got Hit by Stray Bullets in the London Underground

Slides aren’t the only way to be inappropriately sideswiped by bullets. On my recent trip to London, this poster was plastered everywhere. Each station and subway car had this message from the helpful mayor:

london_poster

First of all, it wasn’t hot at all. I had to wear three layers of clothing. But more importantly, the bullets had nothing to do with the heat anyway. The bullets fed the hype and fear about swine flu (which the media there is freakin’ out about):

london_bullet

It’s important in advertising, as it is with slides, to make sure you’re communicating one clear message.The call-to-action to “keep cool” might as well have said to wear surgical masks too. Felt like a bait-and-switch campaign. Fail.

Nancy Duarte

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  • eric

    While I agree with your overall point, I don’t think it really applies here…

    I don’t think those “if you feel unwell” references are referring to swine flu at all… They’re referring to heat-related illnesses like heat exhaustion or heat stroke.

    It’s been many years since I’ve lived in London, but I remember that it’s not uncommon for waves of people to become unwell (and sometimes even die) when the weather gets really hot in London. People there aren’t used to having to keep hydrated and they aren’t always on the lookout for symptoms of heat-related illnesses. The Mayor thinks they need to be reminded. 🙂

    In short, I think that each of the bullet points in this poster *do* directly relate to “staying ‘cool’ in the heat” after all, although that may not be apparent to non-Londoners like us.

  • eric

    While I agree with your overall point, I don’t think it really applies here…

    I don’t think those “if you feel unwell” references are referring to swine flu at all… They’re referring to heat-related illnesses like heat exhaustion or heat stroke.

    It’s been many years since I’ve lived in London, but I remember that it’s not uncommon for waves of people to become unwell (and sometimes even die) when the weather gets really hot in London. People there aren’t used to having to keep hydrated and they aren’t always on the lookout for symptoms of heat-related illnesses. The Mayor thinks they need to be reminded. 🙂

    In short, I think that each of the bullet points in this poster *do* directly relate to “staying ‘cool’ in the heat” after all, although that may not be apparent to non-Londoners like us.

  • Bill Dyer

    I agree with Eric. The items listed in the bullets are ways to mitigate the risk of suffering heat stroke and heat exhaustion while outside.

    London, as in many European cities, has a history of dealing poorly with heat waves. The people are not used to coping with heat waves when they do pop up during the summer.

    This messaging is the similar to what the US provides members of the military during boot camp and when in the field. We also beat this into the heads of coaches training young athletes out in very hot conditions where over exertion can cause a rapid overheating of the body with often deadly results.

    Fail

  • Bill Dyer

    I agree with Eric. The items listed in the bullets are ways to mitigate the risk of suffering heat stroke and heat exhaustion while outside.

    London, as in many European cities, has a history of dealing poorly with heat waves. The people are not used to coping with heat waves when they do pop up during the summer.

    This messaging is the similar to what the US provides members of the military during boot camp and when in the field. We also beat this into the heads of coaches training young athletes out in very hot conditions where over exertion can cause a rapid overheating of the body with often deadly results.

    Fail

  • The Duarte blog is one of my favourite reads. However, on this occasion I think it is only fair to point out (as someone who lived and worked in London for over a decade) that during the summer months the Underground can at times feel like the inside of an industrial oven. Seasonal campaigns like this one to warn people of the potential hazards of travelling on the Tube were up and running many years before swine ‘flu was discovered.

    Perhaps of more interest from a design point of view is the fact that pretty much every piece of London Underground information, from the legendary non-geographic map through to posters like this one, still employs the same typeface that was created specifically for the network in 1916.

    According to the Design Museum, the Johnston typeface was “designed with legibility in mind to be read by busy passengers across crowded platforms.” Over 90 years later and it remains in use across the Underground, albeit in a variant called New Johnston that was introduced in the late 1970s.

  • The Duarte blog is one of my favourite reads. However, on this occasion I think it is only fair to point out (as someone who lived and worked in London for over a decade) that during the summer months the Underground can at times feel like the inside of an industrial oven. Seasonal campaigns like this one to warn people of the potential hazards of travelling on the Tube were up and running many years before swine ‘flu was discovered.

    Perhaps of more interest from a design point of view is the fact that pretty much every piece of London Underground information, from the legendary non-geographic map through to posters like this one, still employs the same typeface that was created specifically for the network in 1916.

    According to the Design Museum, the Johnston typeface was “designed with legibility in mind to be read by busy passengers across crowded platforms.” Over 90 years later and it remains in use across the Underground, albeit in a variant called New Johnston that was introduced in the late 1970s.

  • Sorry Nancy – I think this was definitely a heat issue not a swine flu agenda!
    It is true that only the water advice directly relates to keeping cool and comfortable – which is the headline, but the other points are to do with keeping calm and safe in the heat on what can be a very uncomfortable underground rail system.
    You paid a visit in July which was a pretty wet month as July’s go in England, but June had been extra-ordinarily hot for us over here.
    Just a flavour of the news at the end of June from the BBC website:
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/7472408.stm
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/8128382.stm
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/8124434.stm
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/5190094.stm

    Going back to the use of bullets in a poster of this type, how would you suggest it be done?
    I would have thought in this instance – with a tube train or station being a place where the reader has time to sit (or stand) for a short time, there is opportunity for them to read each bullet.
    I guess using pictures to illustrate each point would be helpful (especially considering the cosmopolitan nature of travellers on the tube). What else could be done?

  • Sorry Nancy – I think this was definitely a heat issue not a swine flu agenda!
    It is true that only the water advice directly relates to keeping cool and comfortable – which is the headline, but the other points are to do with keeping calm and safe in the heat on what can be a very uncomfortable underground rail system.
    You paid a visit in July which was a pretty wet month as July’s go in England, but June had been extra-ordinarily hot for us over here.
    Just a flavour of the news at the end of June from the BBC website:
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/7472408.stm
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/8128382.stm
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/8124434.stm
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/5190094.stm

    Going back to the use of bullets in a poster of this type, how would you suggest it be done?
    I would have thought in this instance – with a tube train or station being a place where the reader has time to sit (or stand) for a short time, there is opportunity for them to read each bullet.
    I guess using pictures to illustrate each point would be helpful (especially considering the cosmopolitan nature of travellers on the tube). What else could be done?

  • You are completely and utterly mistaken. These posters are in no way related to swine flu. They’re related to the fact that every summer the deep underground lines get very very hot and crowded and make people feel unwell. When people feel unwell and pull the emergency cord in a tunnel, this can often lead to trains behind being stuck in the tunnel with all the heat and chaustroobia that goes with being stuck in the tunnel. This campaign has been running for years.

    But, you are right that the media in the UKis totally overhyping swine flu, shame on them.

  • You are completely and utterly mistaken. These posters are in no way related to swine flu. They’re related to the fact that every summer the deep underground lines get very very hot and crowded and make people feel unwell. When people feel unwell and pull the emergency cord in a tunnel, this can often lead to trains behind being stuck in the tunnel with all the heat and chaustroobia that goes with being stuck in the tunnel. This campaign has been running for years.

    But, you are right that the media in the UKis totally overhyping swine flu, shame on them.

  • Martin Tolley

    The point about not pulling the emergency cord is vital in a heatwave on the underground. The system was constructed in Victorian times with no air conditioning and the vast majority of the network has no air circulation system AT ALL. The only way that air moves is by being pushed by the moving trains in the tunnels. If trains stop on the London Underground then heat and stale air can build rapidly and lead to fatalities especially among the elderly.

  • Martin Tolley

    The point about not pulling the emergency cord is vital in a heatwave on the underground. The system was constructed in Victorian times with no air conditioning and the vast majority of the network has no air circulation system AT ALL. The only way that air moves is by being pushed by the moving trains in the tunnels. If trains stop on the London Underground then heat and stale air can build rapidly and lead to fatalities especially among the elderly.

  • Mark

    I’ll also point out that I don’t think the posters are related to swine flu. The points have been made about heat stroke. In addition, in the New York City subways, we have had posters for years telling riders not to get on the subway if they feel ill. This isn’t because of infectious disease worries–it has to do with people fainting, then someone pulling the emergency stop cord. When the happens, the train is shut down, and rescuers can’t easily get to the train, plus all the trains behind have to stop as well.

  • Mark

    I’ll also point out that I don’t think the posters are related to swine flu. The points have been made about heat stroke. In addition, in the New York City subways, we have had posters for years telling riders not to get on the subway if they feel ill. This isn’t because of infectious disease worries–it has to do with people fainting, then someone pulling the emergency stop cord. When the happens, the train is shut down, and rescuers can’t easily get to the train, plus all the trains behind have to stop as well.

  • Rich

    I would add my note to the wave of defence of our lunatic mayor. The heat in the rush hour on the tube is bad in winter and unbearable in summer – this campaign has run every year for as long as I can remember. The media is freaking out about swine flu, the public and public bodies in the main are not. First time I’ve been disappointed in the excellent Duarte blog. I guess this blog proves how easy it is to be wildly off the mark if you comment on something you don’t fully understand or research first.

  • Rich

    I would add my note to the wave of defence of our lunatic mayor. The heat in the rush hour on the tube is bad in winter and unbearable in summer – this campaign has run every year for as long as I can remember. The media is freaking out about swine flu, the public and public bodies in the main are not. First time I’ve been disappointed in the excellent Duarte blog. I guess this blog proves how easy it is to be wildly off the mark if you comment on something you don’t fully understand or research first.

  • This is fantastic insight for me. You’re ALL very right on this one. I was only in London for 8 days and had no insight into the swelter of the underground. As a visitor it confused me as to why the tips weren’t things about cooling down like the title and sub-title clearly set up. I was expecting stay-cool topics like: bring a travel fan, layer your clothing or carry a damp cloth. It’s a nice lesson for me in how I connected unrelated dots. The media was stating all these same points nearly every day we were there so it was inappropriate for me to mentally mix them. Hopefully I didn’t offend all you amazing Londoners! It was the trip of a lifetime.

  • This is fantastic insight for me. You’re ALL very right on this one. I was only in London for 8 days and had no insight into the swelter of the underground. As a visitor it confused me as to why the tips weren’t things about cooling down like the title and sub-title clearly set up. I was expecting stay-cool topics like: bring a travel fan, layer your clothing or carry a damp cloth. It’s a nice lesson for me in how I connected unrelated dots. The media was stating all these same points nearly every day we were there so it was inappropriate for me to mentally mix them. Hopefully I didn’t offend all you amazing Londoners! It was the trip of a lifetime.

  • Steve

    Hey, firstly thanks for the nod too those saying this has nothing to do with Swine Flu but, just to give you a heads up, this has attracted some attention from one of the mainstream papers here in the UK so you may want to add something to the original post? Secondly, if you’re ever back this way travel on the tube in the rush hour and you’ll see why the tips you mentioned aren’t, uh, mentioned. A LOT of people have to go suited and booted to work and you’re lucky if you have space to breathe so a travel fan may end up being a bit of a problem. To be honest the posters are more about avoiding dehydration than keeping cool as that tends to be the biggest problem, especially on long underground trips on the deep lines. Oh, and thirdly, ignore the media here, you’ll be much happier 😉

  • Steve

    Hey, firstly thanks for the nod too those saying this has nothing to do with Swine Flu but, just to give you a heads up, this has attracted some attention from one of the mainstream papers here in the UK so you may want to add something to the original post? Secondly, if you’re ever back this way travel on the tube in the rush hour and you’ll see why the tips you mentioned aren’t, uh, mentioned. A LOT of people have to go suited and booted to work and you’re lucky if you have space to breathe so a travel fan may end up being a bit of a problem. To be honest the posters are more about avoiding dehydration than keeping cool as that tends to be the biggest problem, especially on long underground trips on the deep lines. Oh, and thirdly, ignore the media here, you’ll be much happier 😉

  • Maxine

    I am a Londoner and have been following this thread for a while. At first read of the blog post I was a little bit miffed as it seemed like an opinion very far from the truth. But as I have re-read the post a few times I did spot that it is only ‘carry a bottle of water with you’ that directly responds to the statement – ‘here are a few tips for keeping comfortable in hot weather’ – the other points mainly relate to keeping other people comfortable and keeping the tube running smoothly (how does ‘avoid pulling the passenger alarm between stations’ keep you comfortable?) – a bit unclear – as Nancy says it’s important to communicate one clear message.
    With regards to it attracting attention from a mainstream newspaper I myself have not seen anything. Furthermore, I do not think for one minute something should be added to the original post – it is an opinion based upon many factors that influenced the way the advert was perceived and interpreted – a simple connection of unrelated dots – and i’m sure we have all done that at some point right??

  • Maxine

    I am a Londoner and have been following this thread for a while. At first read of the blog post I was a little bit miffed as it seemed like an opinion very far from the truth. But as I have re-read the post a few times I did spot that it is only ‘carry a bottle of water with you’ that directly responds to the statement – ‘here are a few tips for keeping comfortable in hot weather’ – the other points mainly relate to keeping other people comfortable and keeping the tube running smoothly (how does ‘avoid pulling the passenger alarm between stations’ keep you comfortable?) – a bit unclear – as Nancy says it’s important to communicate one clear message.
    With regards to it attracting attention from a mainstream newspaper I myself have not seen anything. Furthermore, I do not think for one minute something should be added to the original post – it is an opinion based upon many factors that influenced the way the advert was perceived and interpreted – a simple connection of unrelated dots – and i’m sure we have all done that at some point right??

  • good post…………………………………………………

  • good post…………………………………………………

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