This blog is going to be a nice mess of different things, ideas and discussions.  I want to find art in everything and make others realize that the world needs art and design.  Math, science, government, writing, psychology – every possible subject in the world deals with some form of design.  And in this blog I intend to bring that art into existence and look critically at its creation, use, impression, etc.  This blog is merely a conversation starter – between designers, moneymakers, students, critics and more.  Feel free to comment on anything relevant.  Don’t fight too rough, but don’t be a wuss either.  I want to hear what you have to say.

I’ve been looking for something to start my first blog post with.  While this doesn’t affect anyone but Tennessee residents, I feel I need to lay this out there because it does affect our budget and the state of highways across America.  

I went to Nashville this weekend to visit the future in-laws.  It was the first time I’ve driven a long distance since December.  Now, I’ve always been fascinated by the concept and history of highway signs.  There are several sites discussing the creation of highways themselves, there is only one interesting manual from 2004 that shows the exact dimensions and colors different markers should be.  What I want to know is:

Who decided on the green?  On the font?  On the placement of elements?  Etc. etc.  If anyone can find a good, comprehensive site about the history of today’s highway signs, let me know.

But I digress.  What I wanted to talk about was these new Tennessee Highway Watershed signs I saw all up and down 1-40 from Knoxville to Nashville and back.  This lovely article by Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation and Tennessee Department of Transportation members explains “This educational effort is intended to help the people of Tennessee become more aware and interested in watersheds.”  

TN Watersheds

How amazingly passionate I suddenly feel about Tennessee’s beautiful watersheds.  And it’s all due to these innovative and spectacular designs created for our highways. …

So besides the fact that this is a $300,000 project (and yes, we paid for it), this is just about the strangest illustration of water and (maybe) mountains I’ve ever seen.

It looks like there was absolutely no thought put into this design.  From far away (as when you would first see it driving), it looks like a an awkward animal, flailing its limbs out every which way.  You can’t even see the bottom type until you’re right up on the sign.  And did I mention these signs are ginormous?  One can’t help but be distracted by the size, therefore endangering a driver and others subject to gawking at new and shiny things.

So let’s break this down:  Our state government spent $300,000 of our money to take metals and materials out of the environment using methods harmful to the environment, manufactured these signs using machines that emit harmful toxins into the environment, planted them in places completely distracting to oncoming traffic…and they used a terrible illustration to communicate their message.  Seriously, the artwork reminds me of something out of this Raggedy Ann and Andy movie I saw when I was a kid, with the characters rolling around chocolate and candy mountains trying to get away from the creepiest monster I’ve ever seen (at age 5).