Blow your own horn

posted on 26th Apr 2018 by David Jordan

Inspiration from India

Myself and two colleagues are just back from a short trip to India (as you do), and it was certainly a full-on overwhelming cultural experience, a world away from a hop over to a UK or European destination for a couple of days.

In fact it was a complete visceral onslaught of sounds, aromas and experiences.
From a visual communications point of view – there was a never ending rush of signage and advertising flying past on fast moving vehicles and bouncing off shop fronts and street vendor carts.

Although most of our time was spent in office meeting rooms and a hotel, there was some opportunity to get out and brave the 40°C/100°F daytime heat. One abiding memory will always be the traffic. Road trips were white knuckle rides along routes where lanes are completely ignored – instead vehicles constantly veer from side to side to gain advantage, all the while repeatedly sounding their horns to avoid collisions and immediate carnage. It’s completely normal to see traffic driving the wrong way towards you, as you dodge pedestrians, potholes and of course cows wandering across the road.

Indian auro rickshaws

All manner of conveyances vie for road-space including cars, vans, motorbikes, bicycles and auto rickshaws as their drivers beep, shout, talk on their mobiles, and twiddle with their radios as they speed through the dusty smog. Motorbikes and scooters often have a female passenger sitting side saddle in full sari and no helmet, or even carry a family of four or five.

Ironically despite the riot of colour and activity around the traffic, most cars themselves are small and white (and replete with multiple dents), apparently because they reflect the sun and stay cooler. I can certainly confirm that getting back into a grey or dark coloured car parked in the sun is like leaving an oven to enter an even hotter oven!

On the other hand, the sides of commercial vehicles are uniformly painted a dull brown. They are constructed in a corrugated metal style, similar to shipping containers, with little branding or graphics on the sides. However the back of trucks and other commercial vehicles are another matter entirely. The backs of almost all delivery vans and trucks feature very colourful stylised hand painted lettering (or variants) saying ‘Horn OK Please’.

  • Indian signage art on roadside vendor's cart
  • Indian signage art on roadside vendor's cart
  • Indian signage art on roadside vendor's cart
  • Indian signage art on roadside vendor's cart

 

With drivers already beeping their horns constantly you’d wonder why they need to be reminded. One story is that it originated after the second world war.
The ‘OK’ was short for ‘on kerosene’, referring to the fuel that trucks used at the time and which meant that they were slow moving. The message encouraged vehicles stuck behind to blow their horns to ask the delivery trucks to move over. ‘OK’ has been retained despite trucks now using other fuels and being much faster moving. The original meaning has been lost and the text and associated graphics are now displayed for decoration rather than to communicate a message. But there are moves to ban the messages in some Indian states as they still encourage motorists to honk unnecessarily and lead to noise pollution, and they are no longer needed on semi-modern wider roads.

Lots of other signs on roadside food outlets and street vendor carts are produced in a similar hand painted style.

  • Indian signage art on roadside vendor's cart
  • Indian signage art on roadside vendor's cart
  • Indian signage art on roadside vendor's cart
  • Indian signage art on roadside vendor's cart
  • Indian signage art on roadside vendor's cart
  • Indian signage art on roadside vendor's cart
  • Indian signage art on roadside vendor's cart
  • Indian signage art on roadside vendor's cart

 

As we navigated through the crazy chaos during our trip the locals were polite, welcoming, and enthusiastic, there were amazing sights to see and experience, and as an added bonus we avoided the dreaded Delhi Belly!

David Jordan – Digital Director

David set up the dedicated digital division of Neworld in 1999 and oversees the strategic approach, creative design and technical development of digital projects from websites to moving graphics and on-screen presentations. When not pushing pixels or travelling to other continents, he is likely to be tinkering with computers or watching a cycling race.

Indian Truck Art