A frustrated woman, who lives in Kensington, has my undying sympathy.
In a regional newspaper, there is a paragraph item in a “Thumbs Up/Thumbs Down” column, a compilation by the editor of praises and peeves submitted by readers. The woman’s complaint is titled “Dumb Labeling.”
Here it is:
“A Kensington woman was frustrated with a change in how her prescription medicine is labeled. The name of the medicine and the refill number are now printed in dark blue over a black label, making it nearly impossible to read. If there is anything that should be easy to read, it’s prescription medicine. Companies doing the labeling should realize that.”
Just the other day, I picked up my bottle of cholesterol medication to double-check how many milligrams per pill. Squinting to decipher the tiny print, I felt like I was on a scavenger hunt in a haystack, looking for the needle. Finally, there it was, the tiny thing, playing peek-a-boo with me: 20 mg.
In many daily respects, this world isn’t very reader-friendly anymore. I’ve had one heckuva time trying to read words on food boxes, on bills, on medical forms and in magazines. Why do these designers/printers assume we all have 20/20 vision? Even the eagle-eyed have trouble reading some printed material these days.
The very worst example is that miserable weekly, TIME magazine, a magazine I grew up with and read just about every week of my long life. The wretched thing has become virtually unreadable. My TIME subscription is about to run out, never to be renewed. Good riddance to it. And here is why. On page after page, there are words printed in very light yellow on the white pages, or very light blue on white, or white on light blue. The words are so tiny, you have to haul out your microscope, if you have one. This printed lunacy is a “light” variation of the “dark” version (blue on black) mentioned by the frustrated Kensington woman about her medication bottles.
I have written TIME, via email and actual letters, several times complaining about their “invisible-ink” printing methods. I knew when I wrote that it would likely do not a bit of good, but I was hoping others – going rapidly blinder from trying to read TIME – would also complain, and a critical mass of tiny-print critics would cause them to change their ways. Obviously not. I just received the Feb. 25 issue, with the departing Pope on the cover. There is a full-page in the section called “The Culture” (silly pretentious title) about Oscar picks by TIME critics. The background of the page is outer-space black. The black is filled with colored circles, as if they fell from a clown’s costume. The circles are connected by zippy lines leading here and there. The entire production number looks like a diagram of an exploding atom inside a particle accelerator. The circles, garishly colored, are filled with tiny, tiny print. The white print on the orange is fiendishly unreadable. I didn’t even try to read that page. Whoever designed it should be adjusting his medication for severe Scatterbrain Disorder – that is, if the designer can manage to read the directions on the pill bottle.
That TIME page is exactly the kind of razz-ma-tazz nonsense that makes this world so reader-unfriendly: zippy graphics at the expense of words. It’s a sad sign of a post-literate world in which more people, so seduced by online eye-candy, are getting their “information” from photos, graphics, symbols, signs. Who needs those second-fiddle nuisances called “words?”
Dear frustrated Kensington woman, I wish I had a solution for this plague of faded, tiny, disappearing, unreadable words. All I can recommend is you buy a big magnifying glass. I did. But I won’t read TIME with it. I’ve had it up to here with its infuriating unreadability.