London bus blind legibility redesign (Doug Rose)


This piece investigates what I believe has gone wrong with London’s bus blinds in recent years and seeks to explain the solutions I put forward when asked by Leon Daniels, TfL Managing Director Surface Transport. Being flattered to then be given the task of designing the more legible displays now appearing on some buses, this article covers some of the thinking.

At the outset Leon asked me to ensure that all displays were clear, unambiguous and aesthetically pleasing — and aesthetics play an important role in legibility. Typography is a huge subject and therefore one that can only be skirted over in this format; I hope however there is sufficient here to make clear the importance of the usability of destination displays and indeed all forms of information provision.

Context is everything in design and all the illustrations on these pages are hopelessly out of context, as are any comparative tests done by parking two buses side-by-side and photographing them from any distance. There are so many variables to consider, some of which are: lighting, weather conditions, vertical viewing angle, horizontal viewing angle, variable viewing distance — and I doubt anyone has typical eyesight anyway, whatever that might mean.
Location, location, location is the immutable maxim of the retail world; in the world of legibility and typography it is: spacing, spacing, spacing. All typefaces work at their best when spaced optimally, and this next point is routinely misunderstood: visually even spaces between adjacent letters is crucial, as is appropriate leading (line spacing).

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Written by Long Branch Mike