Archive for the ‘How come?’ Category

Amazon Locker

October 2, 2011

Last week, when I was returning from the gym and was heading to the supermarket to buy some food, I stumbled across a weird looking machine, standing at the alleyway of Hammersmith Broadway bus station.

It was a set of lockers, which looked like a left luggage machine. But Hammersmith bus station was a peculiar place to choose for those lockers, as it is not a train or airport station. My surprise turned to excitement, when I approached the screen and realised that it was an “Amazon Locker”.

Amazon is tight lipped about the lockers and has not yet provided any information on the web. Perhaps they first wait to install some of these lockers all over London. My guess is that Amazon intends to use it like FigleavesByBox lockers: you order your item and you chose to get it delivered at those lockers where you can pick it up. And judging from the screen of the Amazon lockers, they will work with a code, which you will get when you order it.



[all images © LambdaPhage]


First quality

January 8, 2011

You may remember a post I wrote a long time ago about the dangers of translating from one language to the other, and in particular from Greek to English. In my post entitled “Restaurant of first accusation“, I went on to describe how a restaurant owner had produced an incomprehensible sign in English by translating the word “class” into “accusation”. Only a person knowing Greek could eventually understand how the mistake in the translation came about.

When I visited my parents in Greece during Christmas this year, I detected yet another incorrect translation. This time, it was on a box about glazed chestnuts with chocolate that my mum bought for Christmas. When examining the box in more detail, I notice that it had a stamp as a feature with the words “First quality Greece”.

But what exactly does “First quality” mean? Is there a “Second quality” or even a “Third” one? Obviously not. The owner of the firm producing the chestnuts meant to say that the product was first class quality, which in Greek would be “Πρώτη ποιότητα” or “First quality” if you translate it word-by-word. And obviously, no one detected the error that made it to the box.


[all images © LambdaPhage]

Gummi roches

November 23, 2010

Regular readers of this blog should have noticed my recent post about the Roche card quiz game, presented in a box reminiscent of the design of the Roche drug boxes. It appears that the company has gone one step further in crumbling its brand identity. Roche appears to have produced its own version of gummi candies, shaped after Roche’s famous hegaxon logo. And instead of gummi bears, I have named them gummi roches.

Just another example of having fun with your corporate identity, despite being a huge multi-billion dollar pharmaceutical company.


[image © LambdaPhage].

Moss pencil

November 21, 2010

Last week, I left work to meet my old colleagues for a farewell party at a pub close to my old job. On my way there, I got a chance to visit one of my favourite bookstores, Magma, located at Clerkenwell Road. (I hope to be able to say more about this store on another occasion). When I was in my old job, I was visiting Magma almost every Thursday, to look at any new books and magazines and find out any new design items they had brought in store. Magma frequently stocks little curios that you can not easily find anywhere else: piglet or skull shaped earbuds, paper earrings and rings, badges for the rube with the motto “Wake me up at ________ station” and other interesting paraphenalia.

This time, I got one of my favourite magazines and when I went to the counter, I noticed a very strange looking writing instrument. It was just a pencil, but unlike any others I had seen before, this one was covered in a bright green fine fur. The “moss pencil” as it was aptly named by its designer, Sirampuch Eamumpai, was just an ordinary pencil with a twist. What probably caught my attention was that the pencil has received a Red Dot Design Award in 2008. It was only £1.5, so I decided to get one for home.


[image © LambdaPhage].

Roche Helveticum forte

October 31, 2010

Those who are familiar with drugs from Roche are probably aware how the drug boxes look like. Roche has a specific design for drug boxes with lots of white space, two proprietary fonts and two hexagons in one of the corners: one being filled with colour, typically blue and the other bearing the Roche logo. In essence, almost all of their drugs are packages in the same looking white drug boxes; the only difference is the name of the drug.

However, if you happen to visit the Roche central offices in Basel, you will encounter yet another Roche “medicine” called Helveticum forte. This one is also packed in they typical Roche white drug box, but the content is far from being an active drug. Instead, you can open the Helveticum forte box to find 36 playing cards and a small booklet that explains how to play a card game. This is because Helveticum forte is not a real drug that Roche decided to give for free to all their visitors, but a card game containing all sorts of different trivia for Roche.

In fact, the instructions of the small booklet tell you of a game that has two phases. In the first phase, two or more players are dealt with some cards with the aim to complete quartets (books of cards of the same rank). They do this by asking their fellow players if they have the cards the need to make the quarter and by losing their turn if they do not manage to find a card. When a quarter has been made, this needs to be laid down. After all the quartets have been laid down, the second phase of the game begins, in which the person who has completed a quartet asks the person on their left one of the questions contained in the quartets. For each correct answer, the respondent is being rewarded with a card and at the end, the person with most cards wins the game.

Helveticum forte is obviously a fun and creative way for Roche to pass on corporate information to a visitor. But what is more interesting is Roche’s willingness to package this board game in a “bogus” drug box, similar to the design of their real drug boxes. It can create a lasting impression.


[all images © copyright LambdaPhage]

Restaurant of first accusation

July 27, 2009

When I was learning English back in Greece, we were once taught how to apply common sense in writing signs. At this lesson, we were also given examples of signs in Greece, in which obviously something had gone wrong. The sign “Restaurant of first accusation” seen in a Greek island restaurant is just one example.

The sudden surge of foreign tourists in the 70s and 80s necessitated a change of Greek tourist business. Obviously, the least Greeks could do was to offer their services in the English language. The only problem was that not many people knew English at that time. To translate your menu in English, you would either have to rely to your English speaking friends, a professional translating service, or -a low cost solution – to your trusty dictionary. The owner of the first accusation restaurant probably found refuge to the dictionary to produce that sign.

To the Englishman, the “Restaurant of first accusation” does not really make sense. If, however, you show the sentence to an English-speaking Greek, they will probably realise what is happening. The restaurant owner just wanted to point out that his restaurant is first class. (Evidently, you start having doubts even for that if you feel that the owner needs to boast). In Greek, you would go about branding your restaurant as “Restaurant of first category” or better “Εστιατόριο πρώτης κατηγορίας”. The only problem is that “κατηγορία” does not only mean class but accusation. The restauranteur probably opened a dictionary, saw that “category” was “accusation” and wrote in their sign that the restaurant was of “of first accusation”.


Since then, I think that the Greeks have gone a long way. They are regularly learning English at school or in private schools and those signs are a thing of the past. Or are they not? I was surprised to see some problems still remain when it comes to translating signs. But this time, it was not in restaurant in a remote island, but it was in Athens, and, in particular, in one of the Athens Metro signs. If you take a look at the right sign above, you will notice that the greek sentence is unusually long, whereas the English translation is curiously short. There is no problem with wrong translation here, but there is a problem with no translation.

The Greek sentence says “Mind the doors. They close inwards” but the English translation has been stripped of details just to say “Be careful”. I guess that English people are not as dumb as the Greeks that need to be told the doors close towards the inside. They can figure it out on their own.


P.S.: How your seen recently any incomprehensible English signs?

(picture ©  LambdaPhage)