The Story Takes Form

Secret Design


It’s the classic graphic design dilemma. You have only moments to grab the attention of passing cars, so what do you say? And what if you can’t say too much? How do you advertise prostitution in the bible belt marketplace? It's a challenge. This should be an assignment for marketing and design students.

Driving into Atlanta last weekend, I fell in love all over again with roadside advertising. My favorite “litter on a stick” ads are for the SPAs. They are bold, bright, indicators of something urgent, something big, I’m not sure what. What are these SPAs? What’s going on inside? It’s a mystery. The colors, images and letterforms reveal nothing. The towering signs are so generic that they actually become tantalizing.

Design that communicates only halfway is often part of a series or a “teaser” campaign. We are accustomed to this kind of advertising...suspense with a purpose. First the question or provocative image and eventually there will be a payoff.

The SPA aesthetic messes with these advertising and design concepts. SPA ads are scaled to grab attention but to communicate nothing.  In saying nothing, they imply everything. My imagination runs wild. These SPAs must be dens of prostitution, happy ending massage parlors. Every once in a while there’s a subtle “oriental” flair to the design. The message I get from the typeface used in “Garden Spa” is: sex slaves that will be deported back to Korea once this place is busted.



These places would look like a Casino if they were in the state of Nevada. Funny how being illegal mutes graphic design. What would our Churches look like if they were in this predicament?


I think the comparison between church advertising and oriental spa advertising is one worth exploration.

I think a spa advertisement taken from the church sign school might read something like this:

"Is being all pent up putting stress on your marriage and making you edgy at work?"

Vice versa, the church sign might just say,

"religious worship open 24 hours."

I like the idea of them swapping. It would be fun.

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