Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Better than a Pointed Stick, Houston METRO Sends Big Message Down-Track.

I’ve got to go downtown to watch the new red train.

After seeing it pictured in today’s Houston Chronicle, the appeal is irresistible. In fact, for the first time in METRORail’s existence, according to the METRO blog, an entire rail car has been wrapped up with a safety message that’s kinda hard to miss.

Safety’s clearly the point here and the great design helps METRO make it. Stop. Think. And a vertical traffic signal on the red wrap as a visual cue on the exceptionally strong, fire-engine-red-colored background.

You’d think people will see this coming a mile away. But then, you’d think that something as big as a train, even a light rail train, would be hard to ignore in the first place. Drivers do it all the time, though, so Houston has a lot of “highway-rail grade crossing collisions.”

I will also get to see advertising history on the move. Bus, train and rail car graphics are still alive and rolling 100+ years after they started. Even now, transit advertising is widely regarded as one of the most effective forms of outdoor. Steve Strauss, writing about transportation posters in his book, Moving Images, said, “…people are gonna see your poster every day, year in, year out, but only for a few seconds at a time. Let’s get your points across in a glance.”

Coupled with great design, transit advertising can deliver larger-than-life impact at the point of use (or anywhere along the line); build great recall in heavily trafficked urban areas; and put big messages right in front of key demographic groups.

This execution qualifies as larger than life – and it’s great design too. I’ve sent a note to Mary Sit, Manager of Corporate Communication at The Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County, asking about the designer or designers of the new rail wrap. When she tells me, I’ll tell you.

Credits: Johnny Hanson photo from Houston Chronicle. Houston METRO superintendent Stephen Land walks past the new wrapped rail car.


S. Reeves said...

I am thrilled to see this design and a little envious too. It's so elegantly powerful. Like the Swiss. Makes me proud to live in Houston.

Mary Sit said...

Thanks for writing about METRO's red train. I haven't received your e-mail yet - but read your post. Here's the info you wanted.

The wrap was designed by Karl Koch, METRO's manager of creative services.

"We wanted to message to be quick, simple because it's a moving billboard," said Koch, adding that he added the visual cue of a vertical stoplight "to make a connection to stop running stoplights."

"I just made a giant stoplight to reinforce the graphics. It stands out quite well against the red," he said.

Richard Laurence Baron said...

Mary, many thanks for the additional information, just the thing for Signalwriter's art direction/graphic design readers.

And way to go, Karl..the Swiss element is distinctive. Please, METRO, can we have some more?

Mary Sit said...


Watch a time lapse of the behind-the-scenes wrap, compressing eight hours into two minutes.

Richard Laurence Baron said...

What excellent fun, Mary - that's great. Thanks so much for sending it along.