26 June 2014

Chuff Chuff Chuff


Ornament ∕ Social Engineering

In Germany, the laws governing the ban on smoking within public railway stations includes a subset of exceptions for certain areas demarcated by yellow lines. In mapping, lines defining the extremities of political territory often have physical counterparts: walls, checkpoints, fencing, river banks, coastline. But the graphical markings above form a legislative map, with no concrete manifestation on the ground other than the paint used to describe itself.

The smoking ban is otherwise known as the “Nichtraucherschutzgesetz”, or Law for the Protection of Non-Smokers, but smoke doesn’t care too much for yellow lines painted on the floor. Whilst the non-smoker may not enjoy a great deal of protection from a wayward puff of smoke, for a smoker, the line represents the difference between a contemplative drag on a fag within, and a 15€ fine without.

Caught between the vestigial popular image of the smoker as a carefree rebel, the law-abiding instincts of a right-minded German, and the inner alarm bells of slighted common sense, these smokers spotted in Angermünde participate in the silent theater of casual defiance. A back is turned to the line, a foot traverses it, and few wish to appear truly enclosed by it. The charitable protection of non-smokers is paid for with the shame of those obliged to participate in this absurd agreement.

As a design solution, the box misses an opportunity for some self-irony: the rectangle maybe most cost effective, but this author would prefer the outline of a big fluffy cloud.