As Margo Channing famously said, “You better buckle up. It’s going to be a bumpy night.”
The issue that has fired all cylinders is that the Ford Motor Company is designing a series of cars over the next few years with larger fonts and gauges in order, in part, to appeal to Baby Boomers. Out of the gate, the 2011 Ford Explorer has signage and text some 30% larger than previous generations, and Ford promises to expand the use of larger fonts over the next few years.
Catey Hill of SmartMoney.com noted Ford’s studies of dashboard legibility that argued for safety in larger fonts: “The move is an effort to make it “easier for people of all ages, particularly aging baby boomers, to read display fonts,” the company said in a statement. (Ford conducted a “legibility study,” which found that people’s eyesight begins to decline in their 40s and worsens from there; these results mimic the results of previous studies as well). Of course, it’s also likely an effort to sell more cars to the lucrative boomer demographic.”
As Boomers move toward retirement age, they will soon be a larger American demographic than children under five. So why would it be lame for Ford to adjust the fonts on the dashboards of its cars? Of course it would not be lame: not many five-year-olds in the car-buying market. But try talking sense to Tristan Hankins over at Carscoop.com.
Rarely does a 150-word commentary stir the blood, but if he’s going to throw this hanging curve, somebody’s gotta hit it. Hard.
The opening alone would provide enough evidence to convict, I believe:
From next year, the fonts in Ford’s Edge andwill be some 40% larger as well as thicker. The reason? Baby Boomers have poor eyesight. No, really, Ford’s done a study and everything. The bigger fonts will extend to interior display screens control and A/C controls, and will gradually be rolled out onto other models in the Ford range in coming years.
Yep, Ford’s done a study and everything. Whereas Tristan needs to come up with a reaction to a press release before his editor gets testy. Surely his say should have greater weight than, you know, surveys and studies by a major corporation about to invest millions of dollars in its product line. That sciencey stuff is for geeks. And old people.
No need to belabor the fact that most any sentient human being knows that, alas, for most of us our eyesight begins to degrade at least by our mid-50s (theare about 65 now – the swell of Boomers in their 50s is only just beginning).
Oh, but his insights grow shallower still. After quoting Ford’s press release about about Boomers outnumbering children and how such a demographic swell “is a transformation that’s changing the world, along with all kinds of products in it,” he wittily retorts:
Ouch. Maybe they should just go all out and put a catheter under the front seat and a folding Zimmer frame in the boot. Ooh, and a radio that only plays music from before 1970!
In the world of Tristan Hankins, you for every pair of glasses you get from LensCrafters, you get a free Foley catheter. I have not seen a study linking glasses to bladder issues, but I gather he has studied in the Sarah Palin Academy of Linkery and Effectuals. And the tautology of a ‘folding Zimmer frame’ suggests he is getting paid by the word, whether weighed or not.
When I re-, reread the comment, truly I was seeking a defense of Boomers – that Tristan wanted to say, “Hey Ford – who do you think you are, singling out Boomers with their ‘bad eyesight’? They don’t deserve your patronizing.” But no such defense could be found: “Like the little boy or girl who flat-out tells his grandparents that they’re old and wrinkly, Ford has snagged upon that babying / slow and loud way anyone under the age of 30 speak to anyone over the age of 50: “YES, MRS. JOHNSON. THE WEATHER IS NICE TODAY. DO YOU THINK YOU’LL GO DOWN TO THE PARK?”
Have you ever heard a 28-year old speak this way to a 52-year old? Me neither.
Designers of all ilks – the people who actually make things to be used, read, and driven – have been cognizant of the need to adapt to the demographic fact of the Boomer generation for at least a decade. In all fairness, there’s no reason Mr. Hankins should be aware of a decade of appliance design.
But a writer for ‘Car Scoop’ surely should have some familiarity with the history of auto design. My first thought when he presented the dashboard of a 2011 Mustang (presumably presented to make us giggle at the HUGE FONT) is how up-to-date/retro it looked. His image is to the left, and is strikingly similar to the Chevy Impala of 1960 (just before Boomers would have been able to drive themselves) on the right.
Hopefully my diatribe to run Hankins’s comment off the road has not been too long a trip for our readers. But a truly important issue is at stake about how individuals and companies will respond to the aging we all face – and the swell of active aging the Boomers are presently experiencing. Theirare going to drive economics and organization for decades.
Now, one is certainly entitled not to like the retro look – bigger fonts or not. One certainly can counter with demographic claims that the Boomer generation does not really have the influence one might think. Or that its members shouldn’t be driving cars. Or won’t buy Fords just because they have bigger fonts (a point Catey Hill makes, but the point was made on the blog “Smart Money”).
But the smirk embedded in the agist, patronizing, humor of a reviewer of cars apparently unfamiliar with the history of cars must not pass un-noted. The Baby Boomers indeed transformed the world, and they will do so again as they move into their late 50s and 60s over the next couple of decades. Ford is ahead of the race. Tristan and those of his mindset are going to be run over by it.