Mind the Gap

Mind the Gap -Anastasia Niforos

I’ve had the opportunity to live in London for the first and last week of my trip and the city has never ceased to amaze me. It’s massive by the way, and always moving. As my trip comes to an end, I have started to pay attention to the way communication around me. The way London mass communicates with its people and how it’s different to what I see in America. There are many ways the city does this, but I’ve chosen just a few that stuck out to me the most.

When I first arrived in London I had a difficult time crossing the street. The steering wheel is placed on the left of the car here and they drive on the opposite side of the street. They also drive extremely fast, so being a pedestrian here is a dangerous game. I wasn’t used to this, but I quickly became accustomed due to some simple communication is written in large white capital letters on the street. They read as, “LOOK RIGHT,” “LOOK LEFT,” or “LOOK BOTH WAYS.” Each also had an arrow next to it for a visual on which way to look. Amazing, I thought. These told me which way to look before I crossed and honestly, it was a lifesaver. It’s a simple form of communication. I was a tourist in a busy city where everything was opposite. I thought it was a genius idea and I loved that it was in large capital white letters and had an arrow for a visual. My eyes followed from the very first letter to the end of the arrow, which had me looking in the direction of where the cars were coming from. Communication seriously is key.

We don’t have anything like this in America and I think we should. We too have tourists coming to our country where things are opposite for them. It would be smart to have something telling them which way to look before they cross the street, especially in large cities. It’s interesting to see the ways in which places provide certain types of communication. Some are straightforward but very useful.

Something else that is very prominent in London is the saying, “Mind the Gap.” This is heard when traveling on the Tube and it is acknowledging the gap between the train and platform. I heard this so much that it eventually became part of my vocabulary. Every time I took the Tube with my friends we’d all catch ourselves saying, “Mind the Gap.” It was interesting to see that just three words could have such a lasting impression on me and the people in my study abroad group. Even more, this saying is so popular that I’ve even seen it placed on sweatshirts, t-shirts, keychains and another type of souvenir items. It’s just a simple form of communication that has come into association with London. When I think of London I instantly think of the saying, “Mind the Gap.”

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When I travel on the train in the U.S. the commonly known saying is, “Watch your step.” This saying is so commonly used though that it has meaning for other things as well. Whereas “Mind the Gap,” is specifically for the Tube. We have such different sayings and it’s interesting to see how communication can have an impact on a place. I will always associate London with the saying, “Mind the Gap,” because it was so commonly used. I might even catch myself saying it when I get back to the U.S. because it’s been embedded in my head so much.

One last thing I noticed about the communication in London is the advertising that is seen on the Tube. When entering the station and riding down the escalator there is a series of advertisements going in the direction of travel. All of which are slanted and evenly spread apart. Before coming to London I had never seen advertising done this way. It appeared like this in every station that I had been to and many of these advertisements became embedded in my mind. I think it was this sort of repetition of seeing a lot of these at once, over and over again. It became clear to me that this was a smart way to get people to notice advertisements. I thought this sort of communication was clever because of the consistency. Every escalator I went on there was a line of advertisements and many were repeated several times. It was another thing that I quickly associated with London.

I also noticed the large advertisements that were seen on the walls of the platforms. This was another great way to communicate because people were waiting for the Tube. They were bound to look at some of the advertisements eventually. Many of these were promoting travel or some type of health product. Each was appealing in its own way, using an assortment of colors and certain font sizes.

I’m from Chicago and have taken the CTA my whole life. The advertisements are like the ones you see in London. There are none going down the escalator and only a few displayed on the walls of the platform. For the most part, they are located in the cars of the train. The CTA stations tend to be a lot blander and I think it is due to lack of advertising. I find the Tube in London more useful when it comes to advertising because it is literally seen everywhere you turn. Whatever you might be looking for, I bet you’ll find it on an advertisement on the Tube.

When thinking about the ways in which places communicate it’s interesting to see the differences and what types of impact each has on the people and society. London has allowed me to see how it communicates with people living in the city. From writing on the street directing me where to look to sayings that will stick with me for a long time, London has a lasting impression on the people that visit. Thank you, London for showing me there is a whole new world of communication out there even though we speak the same language.

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