wordsmith logo

Game of Signs Episode 5: what a good sign!

We collect signs because it’s fun to analyze them—a mini exercise in clarity. It turns out making a clear sign is not so easy. We’ll post ones we find every so often. But keep your eyes peeled—send us ones you find, and we can write them into our blog.

What a good sign!

City of Calgary water truck sign

This is a City of Calgary Water Services repair truck. The sign is one of several painted on the sides of these trucks. If someone is working on a water main, this is what you would see. We think it’s genius.

Calgary has 12,000 kms of underground pipe. We’re on site to keep things flowing.

Why is this such a good sign?
Let us count the ways.

  1. It’s functional. These repair trucks are highly visible and often have to block a lane when they are working. Instead of just being trucks, they are now living notices that explain, “Hey, there’s a water problem here and that’s why you have to slow down. But we’re working on it!”

  2. The tone is perfect. The sign is friendly, interesting, engaging. It’s not bureaucratic sounding (which is a common way to lose an opportunity to connect with readers).

  3. The layout and visual message matches the text. The image of interconnected pipes help us relate to the underground pipes in a nanosecond. The white space around the image and text set it off and help emphasize it.

  4. It brings the reader into the experts’ world. Sometimes experts with specialized knowledge write signs as if only other experts will be reading them. In this case, someone chose an interesting technical fact about water in the city that made the sign fun and taught us something cool. It also helps the public respect their work because we get a feeling for the vast water network under our feet.