Government and language/design frustrations

Kristina Drake's picture

Ooooh I was just informed by our translation department that I cannot present phone numbers any other way than 514 123-4567.

I had spiced things a bit with 514.123.4567 in a new design, but Noooooo I am not allowed to present phone numbers that way in the French version of the booklet because we follow the rules of the Office de la langue française, and *they* say phone numbers must not be presented any other way.

I'm so annoyed with this. It's stupid, it's silly, but where is the boundary between language and design? I understand language-specific punctuation and hyphenation etc... it's necessary. But phone numbers?


/off to do some find and replace.

Conor's picture

Personally I wouldn’t like to view a phone number as you prefer, given its similarity to how IP addresses are formatted.

I’m sure it looked cool though. Don’t lose heart.


Ricardo Cordoba's picture

I'm with you Kristina -- the way they want it for Francais is not even internally consistent. :-)

Christopher Slye's picture

It reminds me of a job I had once...

I had a really fabulous assignment to design one of those educational "wall charts" for a national laboratory -- you know, those dense things that are hanging on the wall of your science class in high school? The design process unfortunately included regular meetings with a large group of government bureaucrats and scientists. One day, well into the project, the panel ganged up on me to insist I change the typeface used throughout (Myriad MM) to some kind of font with serifs, because "fonts with serifs are more readable." Despite the fact that the overall design required a wide range of weights and widths, and consisted mostly of short text passages, I could not dissuade them from the idea that "serifs are always better."

(Somewhat fortunately, soon after, I was forced out of my job through a spectacular political showdown that gave me the rare opportunity to tell a particularly odious bureaucrat, to their face, "Well then I will just have to quit!" Ah, the memories. Someone else finished the wall chart.)

Kristina Drake's picture

I am not, actuslly, invested in the one presentation or the other. In other, less trendy, publications we've used (514) 123-4567. This would not be acceptable to them, either.

My beef is that I just don't see how this is a language issue. To me it's a style preference. You don't like it? I'm cool with that. Tell me you just plain don't like it or give me reasons. But don't tell me that the government says that there is only one correct way to present phone numbers in French.

aluminum's picture

I went through the dots-for-phone-numbers phase in college. I'm back to the 555 555-5555

Design is just as much about not reinventing the wheel as it is being creative and new. A phone number is a basic bit of data and sticking with the tried-and-true format isn't all bad.

Miss Tiffany's picture

Don't forget to use GREP to find and replace it will make it all a piece of cake. (This presumes that you are using CS3)

Linda Cunningham's picture

Ah, your gummint strikes again.

(Not that I should talk: Alberta is the only province where 'Murrican spelling is actually encouraged!)

Si_Daniels's picture

As a protest find the official rules and do something that's within them but totally stupid - maybe use Hindi numerals, or pick a font that's impossible to read, or maybe set the dash subscript at a smaller type size - stay within their silly rule while subverting it.

akluna's picture

I'm not sure if I agree with sticking to tried-and-true. Most of times, tried-and-true are just people staying in their comfort zone. But you can still communicate outside your comfort zone. When people complain to me about something like that, I say "can you read it?" or "Did you understand it?", or even "Would you be able to make a call to that number?"

That usually gets the true reason out on why they want things this or that way, and most of the time is about personal taste.

I prefer the way you designed, with the dots. More elegant and super clear, not mentioning consistent.

aluminum's picture

"I’m not sure if I agree with sticking to tried-and-true. Most of times, tried-and-true are just people staying in their comfort zone."

I'm fine with pushing comfort zones, but I'm also a fan of pragmatic design that helps with usability. In this particular case, does it matter? Maybe not.

Kristina Drake's picture

My not-very-expert opinion is that in design very little boils down to "rules". Most of it is personal preference and consensus.

Tried and true reigns at this institution -- or I should say unquestioned tradition. And I can deal with it. Most of the time. I nod and smile and bite my tongue, but lately I've been wanting better answers for why we do things a certain way. "Because we've always done it that way" is just not very convincing.

We now have one style for phone numbers in English text and one style for phone numbers in French text. This confuses me (why??????) and makes more work for me.

I changed all the French to what the translation department wanted. The English have already gone off to print, and so they won't get changed from the (514) 123-4567 format to the 514-123-4567 that our marketing communications department wants. Too bad, but I'm not sure I really care that much.

No, I don't have CS3. I have CS2. :(

I was having a very frustrating day, and I don't know any better place to come for understanding and venting than here. You guys get me through the day sometimes!

I have had a very frustrating couple of months. I've often wondered if I'm becoming a monkey who knows the software instead of a designer and editor who just might possibly know a little bit more about the job than administrative secretaries and assistants. The phone numbers are not important. They were just the proverbial cherry.

Some days I want to clean houses for rich families in Westmount. The salary would be about the same. I'd be following orders. I'm detail-oriented--I can polish silverware. The main difference is I wouldn't feel that my skills and knowledge were being crushed, or worse, ignored. And I'd have dry hands and broken nails instead of bad eyes and back pain.

Whaddyall think? Time for a career change?

/off to drink my troubles away. ;)

Paul Cutler's picture

Never let them win - ever. And if you don't want to do this anymore I certainly don't blame you. There are WAY too many marketers (or marketing experts). After all - my wife hates yellow.

Have a drink for me.


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