I can't stress how much these things helped when I first moved to Japan long time ago. Nowadays, you can do real-time translation of kanji just by pointing your smartphone at the signs, but back then you had to copy those kanji by hand to your electronic dictionary, and wrong stroke order means the right character just won't show up.
These simple typography helped me guess the correct stroke order to understand where I was and where I am supposed to go.
Aligning the horizontal strokes seem controversial at first (makes characters deform from their “normal” look), but reduces a lot of noise, that you can probably subconsciously parse more at a time?
To clarify: Radicals are common kanji elements, which are used in dictionaries for looking up kanji. A common misconception is that every repeated element is a radical.
In either case, this is not what the parent post is talking about.
The strong alignment of the strokes to a grid is somewhat unusual, and the article explains how it's a result of the production technique. It's a good example of technical limitations fostering creativity. It reminds me of pixel art, where limited resolution forced development of new techniques that ended up being aesthetically appealing in their own right. The need to make clearly legible signs with limited equipment in a busy train station produced a distinctive style that wouldn't have happened without these constraints.
The duct-tape typeface looks rather similar to seal script , an ancient style that is still commonly mimicked when, obviously, people carve seals (inkan).
 For example, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zhang_Xu
I remember when I was learning I did something to cause these characters to appear on screen in front of a Japanese friend (maybe cat'd an anki dump or something), and being absolutely blown away that he had zero trouble reading them.
This isn't an art protect, it's an actual part of the subway system that has been in place for a long time, providing ad hoc guidance in the face of sudden alterations due to construction in progress. Have their been complaints about how it has harmed anyone's ability to navigate?
Also the definition of distorted: "giving a misleading or false account or impression; misrepresented."
It seems I have to explain it to you then.
Some working places offer freedom and human values...
This is in Japan, of course, which is known for the inverse (highly managed corporations and overworking), but there are pockets of employee freedom and expression all over the world
It's very much "not all Japanese".
You don't work yourself to death for the sport of it, and you can get by, own a home, take vacations (locally), and afford what you need without needing to be busy all the time or devote your life to your corporate sponsor.
On average, Japanese work as much as Canadians or Spaniards and generally below the US.
Mexico has been on one of the top spots for years.
They presumably already have these for their official signage, though. In most civic-infrastructure organizations, the bottleneck for producing signage is the design talent.
There wouldn't be any need for "design" if management was involved to expedite the process. Just put the ready made letters together with a couple of ready made vectors like arrows etc in a PC program, and send the file to the plotter.
>Also, a vinyl plotter and computer take up space and need a secure room.
You could order the sign from a print shop with a vinyl plotter and have it delivered in 1-2 hours.
You don't need to get "each of the signs officially signed off with formal budgets and professional designers allocated".
You could expedite his current process, with just a series of templates made on an el cheapo design program (even Word) and a vinyl cutter.
Here's a guy making custom signs nobody asked for. Why would a replacement for that include "formal budgets and professional designers"? One could leverage the same informal process and budget, and instead of duct tape and lots hours, just use a run-of-the-mill printing service (the kind that does photocopies)...
>Sato just keeps making signs on the spot where he notices a need for them, and rips them off when they're no longer necessary.
Sure, and that's just "write message, add arrows/icons, sent to plotter, stick, unstick" -- the same as today, minus the time to painfully create by hand.
Of course this way you also lose the artisty and quirkiness, but I'm only responding to whether this can be done.
And my answer is: it can be done, cheaper, faster, easier, and doesn't take much. Not any big budget (not much better than the duct tape budget), not "professional designers", nothing. You could keep the same unoficialness, and just use a printer and a PC to get the signs (you could even skip the plotter, and just e.g. stick A3/A2 signs with tape).
As for whether it should be done, I'd say no. His efforts, even if wasteful, make the world better and more quirky and charming, in a way that an automated replacement wouldn't.
Reminds me of one of my coworkers. Extremely intelligent software dev. Take him to an art museum and nothing will interest him. Put some music on that's not in his genre and he'll always put on his headphones instead of trying to listen to something new. But start talking about one of his interests, and he'll carry the conversation forever. He just has a hard time understanding why other humans do what they do and like what they like, because he doesn't.
It’s the same thing as that original response to Dropbox.
“For a Linux user, you can already build such a system yourself quite trivially by getting an FTP account, mounting it locally with curlftpfs, and then using SVN or CVS on the mounted filesystem. From Windows or Mac, this FTP account could be accessed through built-in software.”
It's not about the artistry and never intended to be, it's about the end result (functionality wise) and whether you can get it for less effort. (In fact, I've less several other comments lauding the artistry aspect, e.g. notice my comment posted an hour before yours above:
"Sure. I prefer the uniqueness, and quirkiness myself. It's something different than the usual industrial approach.
But I'm just responding to people who saying it couldn't be done in another way (have they ever been involved with sign making? of course it could) or that it wont save time to have it done another way, or that it would cost more...")
Insight is also about calibrating ones response to the audience.
This is how thousands of small businesses and organizations the world over produce signs. What seems bizarre to you?
Saying "but you can print signs for $50" is so wilfully blind to what makes this story charming that it seems like a parody of the literalness and complete lack of romance that one sometimes sees in HN comments.
The Dropbox comment was about a startup making cross platform desktop/mobile sync easy, and a facile dismissal about being able to hack something similar together with FOSS tools which missed both the complexity of the domain and the main point which was convenience for the average Joe.
This is about a guy making subway signs for route changes and other such situations with duct tape working for half a day or more to produce one, and a suggestion that the same job could be more easily have been done much faster (and at a similar cost) with some desktop software (even Word would do it) and a plotter or a simpler laser printer.
The second suggestion is not just not outlandish, but also how such signs are done in tons of businesses and organizations all around the world.
Complex domain, difficult to simplify, main selling point being "works out of the box" -> Suggestion of a nerdy, ad-hoc process, that needs elaborate setup maintenance
Trivial domain, done in a labor intensive personal manner with lots of needless manual labor -> Suggestion of a much simpler, most common way businesses/orgs do it
You could argue that doing it with printing misses the quirkiness, personal touch, uniqueness of the process, and I totally agree.
But not that this process can't be automated and replaced with a simple PC+printing for less manual labor and low cost.
I've done it for a couple organizations I've worked at, and it's trivial. You can print black and white A0 and larger signs for a dollar (and color for $10 depending on size, up to A0 which is 33.1 x 46.8 in).
In fact the whole point of the article about this Tokyo subway guy, is that it's a unique case because this (duct tape and hours of manual labour) is NOT the way such things are usually done.
But mentioning that such action exists in an article about craftsmanship comes out as discrediting their work. No matter how one says it.
He's using the wrong tools to poorly do a menial job slowly. If you can't see that, I don't know what's wrong with you
Maybe next week there'll be an article about a dedicated salaryman who masterfully scrubs trains with a toothbrush
But I'm just responding to people who saying it couldn't be done in another way (have they ever been involved with sign making? of course it could) or that it wont save time to have it done another way, or that it would cost more...
Due to the medium, he must be doing the laborious work onsite.
So he design it .. the other guys have to say ok, produce the sign, deliver the sign, somebody has to recieve it, entry check for bill, somebody has to hang it up .. and it better is the correct size .. and has no error. And just for a little change the hole thing again.
I'm pretty sure if you have a worker who can do it onsite with tape (and keep it simple) .. there is no competition.
Remind me on this. The Super Micro CEO made an Ad by himself.
I guess they can't all be winners.