Someone at work just sent out this link of false signs in the UK subway system. It took me several minutes before I remembered where I’d seen a similar concept before; then it clicked, and I realized it was part of a brilliant TED talk by Stefan Sagmeister, nearly 10 years ago.
His talk covers a series of topics, and at one point, he broaches the subject of design that can truly evoke happiness. He speaks of moments you don’t notice, and the act of realizing something different. His entire talk is worth the watch.
At eight minutes and five seconds, he turns from discussing design that depicts happiness to design that actually generates happiness:
Much, much more difficult is this, where the designs actually can evoke happiness — and I’m going to just show you three that actually did this for me. This is a campaign done by a young artist in New York, who calls himself “True.” Everybody who has ridden the New York subway system will be familiar with these signs? True printed his own version of these signs. Met every Wednesday at a subway stop with 20 of his friends. They divided up the different subway lines and added their own version. So this is one.
Now, the way this works in the system is that nobody ever looks at these signs. So you’re you’re really bored in the subway, and you kind of stare at something. And it takes you a while until it actually — you realize that this says something different than what it normally says. I mean, that’s, at least, how it made me happy.
And now a few of the gems from my coworker’s link on the London Underground:
I made something! And I finished it! My three-dimensional craftsmanship skills have always been far outstripped by my conceptual and two dimensional design skills. Nonetheless, I successfully completed a two-tone infinity scarf in time to wear it the rest of winter! (incidentally, today was 72 degrees, and I spent it at the park).