Entropy in the system
Perhaps the most fascinating part of leafing through Vignelli’s rigid and all-encompassing system is noticing the ways in which it has changed. Some of these modifications, like the introduction of Helvetica instead of Standard Medium, were practical. Others, like the turnstile signs, were technological. And even more of them, like the use of white-on-black signage as opposed to Vignelli’s black-on-white, were motivated by the inherently grimy nature of public space. One of the hallmarks of today’s Subway signage is a thin line that rests at the top of almost every sign. This line can be found in Unimark’s Graphics Standards Manual, but it is drawn there as an indicator of the sign’s mount, not as a graphic element. Changes such as these point to the chaos that besets even the most meticulously constructed systems – an inherent process of entropy that frays all ideals. And, as we look toward the ongoing legacy of Modernist design, it becomes apparent that the gift of longevity will go to that which looks best covered in dirt.
When Bauhaus Arrived to American Bureaucracy and Became Acquainted with Chaos, by Thom Bettridge for 032c
This is exactly the sort of mistake I would make tbh. Thankfully the team who have been working on the new GOV.UK Design System are more patient than me. As this blog post describes, they’ve actually been researching and testing how design systems are interpreted, developed and expanded.
As a result, the GOV.UK Design System is designed to be used, not just to be admired and written about. It’s a great piece of work.