There is a rather severe difference of opinion about using a cliché in the design world. I like them. They are clichés because we all understand them. As long as the idea is presented in an unexpected way, it’s all good with me. An arrow is cliché. “Oh, Sean,” I’ve heard, “Arrows are so 20th-century.” But, why be oblique and complicated when it is so easy to point someone in the right direction?
Arrows are wonderful because they are symbols that command. The viewer is not being asked, “Would you prefer to turn right, perhaps?” An arrow screams, “TURN RIGHT! TURN NOW!” How many other symbols can do that? Lester Beall introduced me to the wonderful world of arrows. Not, Lester, personally, but through Lou Danziger’s vast historical knowledge. At a time when design was racing faster toward more is more with less and less clarity, the arrow was a revelation. The zeitgeist of that time was , “make less with more.” I wanted to make more with less (follow me? More meaning, less stuff.). I could put an arrow on a poster next to a headline and the viewer would read this first. Who knew?
Unfortunately, arrows are a temptation. Like all wonderful things, too much is not good. Judicious usage is needed. As Groucho Marx said: “Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana.”
Tags: AdamsMorioka, arrows, Chermayeff & Geismar, Giovanni Pintori, Herbert Bayer, Jan Tschichold, Kurt Schwitters, Lester Beall, Louis Danziger, Max Huber, Mieczlaw Berman, Paul Rand, Shigeo Fukuda, Tadanori Yokoo, Terry Stone