Friday, 19 June 2009

Colour psychology fail: the traffic warden

So – why was I yabbering on about colour psychology, yesterday?

Here's why.

Yes. A traffic warden (notice how I've managed to photograph him next to a parking meter? Appreciate that, do you? DO YOU?

Now, a traffic warden's job is a tough one. Well, I imagine it is. I wouldn't know. I'm a sodding graphic designer, aren't I? Cushy.

A traffic warden must contend with uppity motorists (= bastards). He or she must project authority and demand respect from those whose inclination might be argumentative, disparaging – violent, even.

And he or she must do this without the implicit power (and menacing truncheon) of a police officer.

So why – WHY – have Oxford's traffic wardens been given a new uniform that with – as its centrepiece – a bloody primary school jumper?

Compare and contrast with the following:

(Not the best picture – but you'd be surprised how hard it is to find images of uniformed police officers who aren't either (a) clad in fluorescent yellow or (b) holding a turding great gun. Sign of the times, eh?)

Anyway, notice how the dark, dark blue (almost black) of the policeman's uniform makes him seem solid, serious, stern, authoritative. It's a strong, commanding colour – exuding seriousness and formality.

Now look back at the traffic warden. That was emphatically not a good colour choice, was it? A relatively small colour shift from navy to royal (approaching electric in its vibrancy) blue has totally changed the effect of the uniform. It has become somewhat cartoonish, cheap, attention-seeking. Beacon-like. And – yes – like a prep school.

It is in no way authoritative.

Complete with all those straps and walkie-talkies and electronic gizmos (and not helped by the bagginess of the garment itself), the effect is almost clownish.

I can just imagine that someone in Oxford City Council (or whichever body is in charge of traffic wardens) thought that navy was 'a bit boring' and thought it'd be fun to brighten things up a bit. Some meddling arsehole who thought he (bet it was a he) knew better.

He did not know better. He has just made the life of Oxford's traffic warden's even more difficult.

Actually, y'know what?, I bet it was the guy second from the left in this photo:


D Cairns said...

I wonder if maybe the reasoning was that traffic wardens are very unpopular, and maybe the dark look wasn't helping. A bit fascist-looking. Maybe something friendluer will make their job easier? I can see the thinking, but agree with you that it's not going to work.

Billicatons said...

Ah, yes, that's a good point -- and one that hadn't occurred to me. Thank you. Maybe that was indeed their thinking.

But, yes, if so, it's doomed to failure. Like the teacher who decides the way to win a class's respect is to try and be friends with the troublemakers.

Related posts