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Friday, 7 January 2011

Telling where we go

Capital Citybus 238 demonstrating its full rear blind display
Comments back from my last blog have highlighted the use of printed destination blinds on our latest addition to the Green Line fleet against the electronic ones fitted to just about all of the new buses supplied nationally outside London, including to First.

This always produces much controversy but at the risk of repeating what I have said elsewhere here are my views:

I favour proper printed destination blinds because they can deliver very accurate letter and number shapes in an infinite range of typestyles and sizes, plus also an equally infinite range of colour combinations. Done properly (and I admit this hasn't always been the case), they conform to the well-understood typographic conventions including kerning (where the extremities of one character sits inside the natural gaps of others). These are known to register well with people reading them taking into account that people actually recognise word shapes and layout before they can naturally focus on the actual letters themselves.

Electronic displays have their upsides - they are cheap and quick to amend and there are no mechanical elements to go wrong. They are also difficult to set badly! However despite really good progress they cannot yet match the crisp clarity that printed material can. That being said it does feel as though near-print quality is not far off.

Printed blinds also continue to manage to make the distinction of separating our "official" information from much of the other clutter on the front of buses (adverts and so on).

A big step forward with conventional blinds has been the ability for them to be electronically tracked - this has meant for much better alignment, and the ability to control the side and rear ones simultaneously. I know this has added a new degree of potential failure but modern equipment is increasingly reliable.

Over 12 years ago I did experiment with a prototype system to have the same information at the back as at the front (pictured above) but sadly in those days the reliability was poor. It is much better now I am glad to say.

Pressure by the operators to improve things has been matched by the manufacturers - notably McKenna Brothers who have invested in all the equipment necessary to deliver the highest standard of printed blinds and ever-improving electronic ones as well. This is a great example of where the manufacturing side has listened and responded to the needs of the customer. And at the same time they also have great personal customer service too, led by Vin McKenna himself.

Take a look across at their website for the range of their products.



  1. Totally agree with your views on this, not to mention the fact that printed blind sets present the office apprentice with the opportunity to make one off panels for special events!

    Having said that, in Hong Kong the widespread adoption of LED/LCD displays has happened with hardly a murmur, and it is one of the few things the local authorities have not gotten involved with.

    Back in the day, when Citybus first tried out LED displays, my staff made an excellent job at replicating Johnson typeface within the limitations of an LED display.

  2. I would agree with printed blinds when they contain all the traditional via information. The modern TfL spec, allegedly DDA compliant, ultimate only blind would be just as clear in a LED and no doubt be cheaper to provide buy operators therefore saving public funds?

  3. Destinations screens that are either linen or electronic are fine, whhat about paper destination screens. see