Will we ever live in a “post-literate” world?

This was something I was reading about recently in a book called “Shapes for Sounds” by Timothy Donaldson. I fully understand the irony in this but actually the topic is one that’s been playing on my mind for a while.

Is is possible for our world to evolve to a point where reading and writing is no longer required? Will the shift we’re currently experiencing into a more imaged based world go so far as to render the alphabet superfluous?  I’m inclined to think not – as Donaldson cites, 95% of the internet is text based. But will we lose the beauty of long copy in advertising? This is something that is far more likely.

One of my favourite adverts ever done (by DDB for Avis) is almost all copy. And yet, if released now I can’t imagine it would even begin to have the impact it had when released in 1963.

Are we really too busy to read? Or just too lazy? David Ogilvy was perhaps one of the more outspoken (or outwritten?) objectors to the gradual move away from long copy and when you see one of his most famous adverts for Rolls Royce it soon becomes clear why (click for a larger image):

The issue was contested more recently in the 2010 London Long Copy Challange. The task was to design a poster for the London Underground using more than 50 words and it resulted in some beautifully worded pieces.

(winner for commercially driven poster was for Adidas by Iris)

(Not for Profit winner,  Kids Company by M&C Saatchi)

Over 500 entries were received showing that the industry at least are not ready to abandon the written word, but did the commuters respond in the same way? This is something that I can’t seem to find the answer to – which doesn’t exactly bode well.

I love adverts like this and think the skill they involve is incredible but sadly I’m not sure they are the future for advertising or graphic design. I really hope I’m wrong.


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