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IN FAIR VERONA, WHERE WE SET OUR SCENE...

Conway Lloyd Morgan

 

Romeo and Juliet was Shakespeare’s first romantic tragedy, probably first performed in 1594, in the presence of Queen Elizabeth the First, an ageing Virgin Queen to whom the deaths of the young lovers must have been most affecting.
For a tragedy indeed it is. Four young people die, violently or needlessly, in the course of the story. We, as committed members of the design profession, and as concerned citizens, should do our utmost to ensure that so many young lives are not lost, that such tragedies do not occur. Let’s look back and see what could have been done in Verona at that time, trying to identify the key points where our present-day design skills could have intervened.

Firstly there is the balcony, clearly a form of vertical transportation device. Balcony manufacturers, like lift manufacturers today, could have been asked to limit loadings, and put up warning signs, perhaps reading ‘Maximum Permitted Load: 1 Nurse, 1 Noblewoman. No eating, no drinking, no kissing, no soliloquies.’
Then there is the street fighting. Clearly an illegal activity, and here we should remember the important role of well-designed signage in reminding people of their duties. Then there was the wider problem of the failure of the forces of law and order to prevent violence. This is obviously a question of visibility, what we would term a branding issue: clearly making the guards visible would reduce crime.

So much for the public issues. In the case of the two lovers, there is the problem of the message that is not delivered in time. Anyway, here communication design can come and help us: no friars allowed out without mobile phones for example.
And finally there is the tragic misunderstanding over the potion. Packaging design could have cleared this up as well, as well as clear labelling and instructions.

Of course, if we had managed, through design, to avert the tragedy of Romeo and Juliet, we would have created problems for later designers. Cigar manufacturers would have had to find other role models. How about Heloise and Abelard? No, perhaps that would be too unkind a cut. Or another Italian couple, Paolo and Francesca? What was it Dante said about them? Always flying together through the dust and smoke. Perhaps not.
And a certain famous car manufacturer might be memorable for the Alfa Alberto.

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Design Management
VIZO Workshop

“Design makes the Difference”
Brussels, Belgium - 29/30 November 2002

 
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