Preventing typography disasters, from the Oscars to prescription bottles

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Although the nearest Target is only 5 miles away, I rarely went there; most of the stuff I need is available closer. But I went there for my prescriptions solely because of the ClearRx bottles.

When the bottles went away, it didn’t take me too long to move my prescriptions closer to home.


This is the article that the video references when talking about redesigning the Oscars’ card. It’s a good read:


When I am cooking unfamiliar pasta, there is one piece of information I want off the box. Minutes of cook time. I want to set a timer to remind me to test the pasta.

It’s the one number that should be prominently displayed, but it’s always buried in the middle of a paragraph of very small text.

Sure, I could keep checking on it to see if it’d done, but I’d rather be pulling a salad together or doing something else, just giving it a quick stir now and then without testing it. Knowing the expected cooking time is a huge help in planning when I really need to pay attention to it again. Angel hair pasta will be done in less than half the time that lasagna noodles will be. Shells are somewhere in between. Ziti is in there somewhere too. Linguni takes longer than thin spaghetti. Elbow macaroni is longer than you would think.

Just give me the damn number, printed at least a quarter inch tall!


As a designer I find it amazingly ironic that the issue is the ongoing ever-present battle between BRAND and INFORMATION.

What I need to know about a product is in direct competition with the branding of the product. I can understand when brand trumps info on something like a box of crackers or cereal. In the case of the Oscars announcement card it is INEXCUSABLE. No one but the reader of the card is going to see that card…the branding is inconsequential.


Yes! Usually the most prominent text is in a fancy box and it’s a recipe for something else. I DON’T WANT THAT! I WANT TO COOK MY FARFALLE CORRECTLY!


I understand that it’s often kept as a souvenir by the recipient of the award, and so is probably designed for display.

That being said, it’s inexcusable if the typography, for vanity’s sake alone, prioritizes that secondary purpose above the primary purpose of allowing the presenter to announce the award correctly.


If it is designed for display along with the award as you suggest (and I concur that is a known thing to be done)…it is doubly more a priority that the info is most important, not brand.


I dunno if I get the pharma one. If my doctor says take two, not one, that information is carved into my brain as if my life depended on it. I’m sure there are people out there who simply don’t listen to that vital information, and then get the bottle home, scratch their head and ask, “how many was I supposed to take again?” Then they don’t call the doctor or the pharmacy - instead they try to read the label and their eyes are worse than mine and they can’t find their glasses.

These people need help of a kind typography alone cannot deliver.

Getting rid of the Target Rx bottles is infuriating. Those should have been set as the standard, but of course the “free market” once again was expected to solve a health and safety issue and instead did everything it could to maintain status quo.

This is such a simple thing to fix. It shouldn’t be some sort of psuedo-political topic to set a nationally recognized standard.


Type design is not typography – they are separate disciplines.

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For how many distinct prescriptions being taken at the same time is the information carved into your brain?

If greater than one; you are absolutely sure that you haven’t transposed the instructions for Somethingaprex™ and Somatazole™?

One prescription at a time isn’t so tricky; but a whole bunch, especially given how healthy and robust people juggling a whole bunch of prescriptions often are?


Except this year when, because of the fuck up, the whole world got to see the card. And ironically in this case the Academy would probably prefer that their brand wasn’t quite so prominently displayed … and if it hadn’t been, it wouldn’t be.

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Allow me to introduce you to the Swiss cheese model.


Indeed, and as lay person I’d hazard a guess that while either may have contributed to this mess, it was the overall graphic design (what was where on the card, and perhaps what was not) that contributed most. (But I expect a pro will be along soon to explain the error of my thinking/inappropriate terminology usage.)

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As someone with aging parents, I can tell you poorly marked prescription bottles is the sort of thing that keeps me up at night. It’s really tough with people who are used to caring for themselves and fiercely hanging on to their independence to take away simple tasks like taking their pills - and yet, it’s clear that as their memories fade they might be taking too many or too few or the wrong cocktail. Anything that can help those determined to do it themselves do it better, I’m for.


I don’t know if they have them where you are, but my mom gets hers in blister packs pre-divided by day (Sun-Sat) and time of day. So all her pills for Monday morning (for example) are in a single blister section, so all she has to be aware of is what day it is and whether it’s morning, noon, or night. The prescription information is printed on a sticker that goes on the cover of the pack, if Dr. or hospital need to know. It is a lot easier than multiple bottles and even those containers you can divide into by day, because it comes already done and accounts for things that need to be taken at different times.


I got something like that that through SimpleMeds for a relative. It was quite possibly a literal lifesaver.

The only downside is that if the one or more of the prescriptions change, then either additional packets come into play until the new pills are added to the next month’s set (which can be confusing for the patient) or packets must be opened and pills removed/replaced. But overall the system is a huge help.

My dad has for years convinced himself that he knows how to tinker with his meds. Now that his mind is starting to fade, it’s getting worse and seems like a cycle where he takes too much or too little, it affects his mind, it affects what he takes (or doesn’t). It’d be great if it were just an issue of managing the meds, but even if it were in blister packs he’d still jigger with it.

But I wanted to comment on what @Boundegar wrote because he assumes that everyone taking medicine is of sound mind, and a lot of seniors in particular don’t really remember why they are taking medicine or how much to take.


Okay. I get that.

I also only know my own meds because I have been on them for years. Anything new and the instructions are essential, since it’s usually more detailed than the “take two, twice a day” that the doctor says. With or without food? What other medications or supplements (or foods) are contraindicated? What are the known side-effects and which ones indicate a severe, adverse reaction?

So I agree that even someone who has a good memory still needs a clear, unambiguous label. Because if you don’t hear the “not” in a “do not take with milk” instruction, you’re at best not letting the medication work to its full effect and at worse, doing harm.