weather.com featured the graphic above in a banner ad for their twitter page. The social development of truncating words is naturally economical for communication via texting and instant messaging. However, I haven’t seen such tactics employed in other forms of graphic design until now. Its impact can be debated.
If using texting/IM slang helps communicate a message more efficiently, then it succeeds. Yet, if it distracts and confuses the message, then it fails. I’ll use the term “slang” for lack of a better word. It’s really not slang because these truncated words represent specific words and are not new words which have a suggested meaning. They are literal, not allegorical.
Within the context of the history of the English language, the use of text slang is a new development. So there will be growing pains for its acceptance in graphic design simply because a percentage of society won’t know what it means or at the very least, will require time to pause and interpret what these phrases represent, thus greatly hindering the effectiveness of the communcation. I belong to the latter group. And then there’s the marketers that intentionally use text slang for the desired benefit of resonating with a younger audience who would appreciate big-brother-marketer talking in their language. I think this notion is a bit trivial and assumptive and may actually backfire on marketers. Beyond the process of the “new” becoming the norm is a bigger topic.
Text slang has a natural fit in the ultra-utilitarian world of texting. Screen sizes are small. Shorter words function better in this setting. Also the speed at which people prefer to communicate demands shorter words for two reasons. 1:less time physically typing means message get sent more quickly. 2:shorter words theoretically mean less time required to read such words.
Format and speed are factors shared in the design process. How a headline fits on an ad is always, always a design concern. Truncated words may aid in this presentation. The amount of time it takes for a person to type isn’t a graphic design consideration, but the speed in which such message is digested is critically important to design. So, the usage of text slang could have resounding impact in the success of a design.
It will be interesting to see how our culture utilizes text slang in all realms of graphic design. It already dominates the world of texting and instant messaging, but its use in the potentially visual complex realms of advertising and other communicative materials will be of use to monitor.