“Real Artists Ship”

Colin Johnson’s blog

Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

Design Puzzles (2)

Friday, March 2nd, 2018

For a while I wondered what these benches were all about:

Benches at Stratford International

They appear at a number of London and South-East railway stations, and when I first saw them I thought they were a bizarre and out of keeping design decision. Why choose something in such bright, primary-ish colours against a generally muted design scheme. They wouldn’t be out of keeping somewhere—but, not here! And after a couple of years it suddenly struck me—they are the olympic rings, that hung up at St. Pancras during the games, sliced and turned into benches! My supposition is confirmed by Londonist here.

Honest (1)

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2014

I like this honest and noncommittal sign:

Welcome to St. Pancras International: We Wish you a journey


Friday, September 20th, 2013

It’s weird seeing things like Gluten-free products in supermarkets overseas. Of course there are Gluten-intolerant people in Germany, Spain, Japan, Bolivia or wherever. But, a little thing pops into the back of my head, just for a fraction of a second, to say “but surely they aren’t that fussy here”. It’s weird how the idea, held as truth by people of my parents’s generation and perhaps a little younger, that all food allergies were just people being “fussy eaters”, has left a little limbic trace in my mind.

Scam (1)

Friday, December 21st, 2012

Interesting scam attempt on the tube t’other day. Someone came up close to me as I was entering the gates, briefly flashed open a wallet revealing the sort of “police officer” badge that you can buy from Toys’R’Us, and said “Can I follow you through? I’m a police officer so I get free travel anyway.”

Waiting (1)

Tuesday, March 13th, 2012

Virgin Trains (IIRC) tried an experiment a couple of years ago with making the experience of waiting for a train to leave its first station more like the experience of waiting for a plane to take off. When passengers got on the train, there was music playing in the background, and, perhaps I am remembering this wrongly, dimmed lighting.

The effect of this on me was negative. Usually, when I get on a train, I don’t really care whether it is moving or not—I settle into my seat, put my headphones on, and start reading. At some point the train starts moving, and I hardly notice this. This redesign of the experience made for quite the opposite effect: by constantly reminding passengers that the train hadn’t started moving yet, it can create the effect of “drumming your fingers waiting for something to happen”, which is quite the opposite of the relaxing effect intended. The important difference is that take-off is an unignorable part of a flight; a train starting moving is eminently ignorable.


Thursday, March 8th, 2012

Over the last few years lots of money has been spent building automated ticket barriers at stations. However, I wonder if this is all going to be rather wasted, as train companies are gradually moving towards e-ticketing, and the barriers are designed to take a very specific form factor of printed ticket. At the moment, e-tickets have to be checked by a human operator, which kind of defeats the point. I wonder if this is why the new barriers at King’s Cross have some kind of barcode scanner thingy on them?

Advertising Opportunities (2)

Wednesday, February 8th, 2012

Almost all hotels seem to supply generic no-name toiletries, sometimes branded with some ad hoc private label, sometimes branded with the name of the hotel. This seems to miss a tremendous marketing opportunity for manufacturers of shampoo, shower gel etc. I’m surprised that such manufacturers aren’t falling over themselves to give free samples of their products to hotels, as this is one of the rare occasions where people use products that aren’t “the usual”. I wonder why this doesn’t happen.