At your own risk

It’s always hard to objectively reflect on your own country. For that, you either need to stay abroad for a considerably long period of time, or you need to invite a foreign visitor to achieve a true confrontation. I’ve tried both – for multiple times. And after exercising my travel skills for over 6 years, alone or with company, I came to a surprising revelation:

Living in Slovakia is at your own risk.

I guess I finally tackled that after seeing this:

It’s from Námestie Slobody, one of Bratislava’s squares, which is in a horrible condition and desperately needs reconstruction. The decision was made in 2015, but unfortunately without proper financial resources the reconstruction remained in the realm of good intentions until now. Thankfully, Slovak people are very patient and used to waiting for brighter tomorrows. This “transition period” between dreamy fiction and actual reality is commonly solved with warning signs. And yes, we DO love signs! I honestly never noticed it before, but now it’s like seeing your own nose – I see them everywhere.

Warning signs are quite controversial piece of visual communication. They are very useful, probably saved millions of lives already thanks to the excellend balance of visual form and function – so one could say its highly functional design. Yet – considering the premise that design is supposed to be a problem-solving discipline – these signs are basically doing quite the opposite. Postponing the actual problem-solving part to infinity is caused by the illusion of “good-enough for now” state the signs are promoting. The utter visual function serves no long-term purpose, but nobody seems to worry about it.

So, it makes me a little bit perplexed. It seems like the warning signs are just adding to the moral justification of low effort short-term solutions, instead of doing any sustainable good. Simply transferring the responsibility to ordinary people by placing a warning sign is no better than saying loudly that the problem will not be addressed in any proper way in near future. Whether it’s the warning signs in urban context or on cigarette packs – it’s never meant to be functional in its first place. (Except saving the responsible ones from lawsuits.) Therefore I see no difference between the city warning signs and other visual pollution in the city. Anyway, even with the best intentions, the warning signs become illegible among each other and the omnipresent advertisements in the public space.

Trnavské mýto, Bratislava

Therefore, being a clever designer myself – I came up with a genious strategy how to reduce the number of warning signs in the city and fight the visual pollution in public space. I made a general wearable warning sign. It is a handy disclaimmer for any occasion: I’m here at my own risk.. This should become a necessity for every citizen of Bratislava. Not only it’s keeping the same function as the city warning signs – it’s even better, because it’s mobile! Plus, it’s out there, carrying the message to everyone, reminding that things are as they are and will not be changed anytime soon. Wear this everyday, and you will gradually become more and more conscious of your own acts, and there will be no one else to blame but you. Available in all sizes and colours.