How fancy design became impractical

Travelling home from London to Brighton on Saturday in the dark, my natural desire was to look out of the window when stopped at a station to see which one it was.

Instinctively I looked for the station name. Now it wasn’t during the Earth Hour so all the lights were on, but I couldn’t find the name plate. Oh, there it was – but it was so illegible I couldn’t read it.

Why? Because the person who designed these signs decided it would look really good if the background was that nice green that is so fashionable with a slim white font for the name on it.

Hmmm. That may look really dandy during the day, but I bet the designer hasn’t travelled by night to see how this stands up in the dark. The dark green became black, and the slim words melted into it so they could hardly been seen. Totally impractical for passengers who are unable to recognise the shape of the station buildings to know where they are.

Why, oh why, is there this trend to reverse design around? Books have black words on white paper for a reason. Any website I see that has a black background immediately has me gone – I don’t even bother to try to read it. Can’t people see that a dark text on a pale background is better because it is so much more practical?


3 thoughts on “How fancy design became impractical

  1. Interesting point Alice. How does this work for visually impaired? My limited knowledge is that some can not see light on dark, or dark on light, do you know what the accessibility issues say? Perhaps the train company did not think about this.


    BTW – I prefer black text on white rather than white text on green, so am with you on this one. Alcohol doesn’t help me too much when reading signs – but don’t believe the background colour figures in this instance!!!


  2. I totally agree with you Alice on this one. Even thought design has evolved greatly in the past years there are still quite few people out there that don’t believe in white or blank space in general. I am all for it but that is because we were educated that 8.5″ x 11″ page doesn’t have to be filled to be noticed. I always need to explain to my clients why white space is important and how much easier it is to read when you have lettering against light background than vice-a-versa. We still have a lot of teaching to do for public to understand what good design really is.


  3. Thanks edezign – this is one of my bones I regularly pick, people don’t understand white space or the importance of adequate margins to draw the eye inwards. Clutter causes confusion, space allows design to breathe and actually highlights subjects more.


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