October 08, 2012

Horse 1375 - Graffic Traffic Design

Jamie Whincup and Paul Dumbrell wrote their name into the record books yesterday with a win at arguably the world's greatest touring car race, the Bathurst 1000.
Being the fiftieth running of the event at Bathurst, a number of cars including the second place X Falcon, were wearing liveries echoing those which had competed before and whilst it was great to see, I think it illustrates something important.

A car whizzing down a piece of tarmac at 300km/h is a moving billboard. If you want a billboard to successfully do its job and sell the product or service in question, it has to communicate a message effectively and more importantly, simply.

James Moffat and Alex Davison's "Tru-Blu Steel Tubing" Falcon illustrated yesterday that you do not need swirly; funky graphics to make a car memorable. In that case, even the colour of the car itself communicates the message simply and so well, that even 31 years after the original car driven by Dick Johnson had won the race in the hand , it still lived long enough in the memory to communicate that message.

The point about simplicity of message or lack thereof is proven perfectly by Greg Murphy and Owen Kelly's Pepsi Commodore. I completely understand that Pepsi want to appeal to "da youff" market but you can not make anything memorable if you change the livery for every race and in the case of Pepsi generally, by changing the corporate logo. Pepsi would be better off in my opinion, to change back to their logo from the 1960's. Their marketing on their bottles in the supermarket does this and it seems to work well for them.
I think that it is a mistake to ever change the logo of a company unless it either reflects its history or because the company has undergone a merger. General Electric (GE), apart from being the only original component on the Dow from day one, has for the most part retained its logo, or at very least evolved it slowly. The same also goes for Ford, which has retained the same script in the blue oval which appeared on the Model T as early as 1906.

The Craig Lowndes and Warren Luff Commodore ran a colour scheme echoing the Marlboro colours run by the late, nine times winner of Bathurst, Peter Brock.
So strong was the colour scheme of those Marlboro Toranas and Commodores of the late '70s and early '80s that even the chevron on the bonnet had to be turned upside-down. The power of good graphic design has even recently been acknowledged at law, with the move to sell cigarettes in plain packaging.

If there is another thing to be taken away from the race yesterday, it is that having big numbers on the door is as important as the logos emblazoned on the car.
Motor Racing like all forms of sport is in part about the unfolding of a story. Since stories themselves are about telling messages and the cars and drivers in the story are its characters, then giving each car a proper identity should be an essential part of telling that story.
NASCAR in the United States has known this for years and even in the country which developed and refined advertising further than any other, the numbers on the doors of the cars in a NASCAR race are massive and obvious even at a distance. So strong is the branded message of a number that even they are considered as assets and are bought and sold for millions of dollars.
Again we note Peter Brock who after being paid to run 05 on his car to tie in with anti-drink driving advertising (whilst still running cigarette adverts on the car), continued to run the number for X years after the Victorian Dept of Transport had ceased to pay him for doing so.
I know it sounds odd but I really find the little yellow numbers in the rear window annoying. If as per the regular season that say the number 1 was taken by another team, Triple 8 Engineering which runs the Vodafone Commodores would be numbered 88 and 888. That's fine on television but if you're at the track, they just blur into a yellow blob and you have no idea which one is which.

I rather liked the retro aspects of cars yesterday. I think that V8 Supercarsm specifically and the teams generally should take notice of certain aspects of graphic design though. If you are communicating a message at 300km/h and want it to be effective, then please please please, first make it legible.

NB: All photos stolen from the V8 Supercars website: http://www.v8supercars.com.au

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