Graphic Designer Ben Terrett has written an intriguing essay on the future of signage. He wonders what can be done about the unsightly and inefficient glut of signs and advertising that has grown out of control in our cities and towns. The idea of the “unproduct” strikes him as an apt model to follow in rethinking the notion of directions and locational information.
An unproduct is an item that has maximum information, with minimul “stuff”, or physical presence. Terrett goes on to explore all the ways in which this unproducting can be applied, whether it’s just applying a simpler design, or adding hidden layers of data, readable by mobile devices.
One important factor in unproduct is data. Because software is now everywhere, you can add and collect data easily and often. We have long realised that adding data to things often makes them more valuable; for example, the way houses become more expensive with added history – from ‘this used to be a fruit warehouse’ to those ceramic blue plaques. Those little bits of data are increasing the value without creating new stuff, keeping the wheels of capitalism turning while slowing down the treadmill of consumerism.
One of the key aspects of unproduct is the ability to constantly add to your experience without the need to physically create more things. One of the key aspects of wayfinding is to make sure you get the information you need as efficiently as possible. In a carbon crisis world, a clever combination of the two could be a powerful innovation.