Design that works

Scrutinising an Innocent drink carton several weeks ago I noticed that it was recyclable “in certain areas” and that I was to check with my local authority to see if it could be recycled in my area. I didn’t of course, not looking forward to either an elongated phone call being passed through various different departments or trawling through an impenetrable menu system on my local council website. I therefore forgot all about it and sent the package merrily onto landfill. To be fair, I had previously checked several years ago whether I could recycle this sort of packaging in Ipswich and finding out that I couldn’t, I didn’t hold out much hope that this would have changed.

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Then when walking to work one morning last week I found myself confronted with a large graphic on the side of a bin lorry telling me that I could now recycle orange juice cartons in my blue bin. I was astounded for two reasons: firstly I was surprised that my local council was actually quite advanced; and secondly that this information was bought to me and that I didn’t have to hunt it out.

This is a prime example of design that works. Not only has it bought this important bit of information directly to me, but also to all the houses on the route of the bin round. In my neighbourhood the houses are no more than 3 metres from the road, with small front gardens and pavement the only things between window and residential traffic. This means anyone opening their curtains at refuse collection time will be delivered the same information. This is an excellent example of taking the message directly to its audience.

This advert won’t win any awards though because it isn’t necessarily a great piece of design. The non-threatening cheeky bin man sticking his thumb up giving recycling encouragement to locals isn’t exactly ground-breaking or particularly inventive, and for my money I find it a little patronising. It isn’t even particularly well laid-out. But none of that actually matters because this design ultimately works. This evening I cleaned out the first Tetra Pak style carton I’ve finished since seeing the billboard ready to put in my recycling bin tomorrow. For that this advert should win an award because fundamentally it does what all design should do: it works. In my own experience the message has been effectively delivered and I have acted upon it, regardless of personal aesthetic tastes and design criticism. There often isn’t enough research done into the effectiveness of a design after it has been implemented, especially for social design, (where as increased sales figures can justify a piece of design in a commercial setting). But in this case, job done. Give a yellow pencil to whoever created this advert and decided to stick it on the side of a bin lorry.