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
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
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.