07 June 2013

[logo] Dagen H, or, The Day Sweden Went From Left-to-Right

2939.There are some things that seem such commonplace verities that I at one time personally took them as read, permanent, non-changing, understood.

Like driving on the right. The rule of the road.

Not that such things are unchangeable (I once thought national boundaries were set in stone as well, then started reading, as a neat thing, about the great World War 2) but they are glacially slow to change. And the rule of the road would be one. Americans drive on the right; Americans have always driven on the right.

Well, yes, and no. When America was a British colony, as it happens, the Rule of the Road was stay on the left. This was the rule until sometime in the 1780s. So, things do change, but I didn't think this happened in the modern times, and certainly not during my lifetime … but then, I just found out I was wrong about that, too. Up until September 1967, Swedes drove on the left - in contrast to their sister nations on the Scandinavian peninsula, which drove on the right, which tended to cause confusion and the occasional accident at Sweden's land borders with Finland and Norway.

I'll not at this time explore why the Swedes resisted the change for so long or whether or not this was an improvement in safety over historial ways; I'll leave that to someone else. Suffice it to say that it took four years of public relations and one memorable Sunday in late 1967 to synch Sweden with her neighbors. For what its worth, it happened, and the Kingdom exists today, still cranking out Volvos and bland Europop and whatever else it is that Swedes do. They seem fine. Cracked (strange to think that, in the latter day, I'd be learning my history from the website descended from the poor relation to Mad Magazine, but these are interesting times) displays the merry chaos on this page, which published a photo from the 3rd of September 1967, a day known as Dagen H.

Dagen H translates to H-Day, and the H is short for Hogertrafikomlaggningen, or Swede for right-hand traffic driving. And, to communicate the change, a suitable logo - appearing on everything, reportedly, from t-shirts to coffee mugs to cute ladies' undies, went public. Here it is

This piece of clever design speaks for itself. The way the letter H is recast as a sort of expressway diagram I find particularly impressive. The date is expressed in the style we Americans have come to interpret as a typically European one: day-month-day, with a period delimiter rather than a slash (we would write that 9/3/1967, they, 3.9.1967).

The type is particularly beguiling, with a hand-constructed look to it.

It's a clear lesson in clever communication, and, as such things are wont to do, works on multiple levels without being too proud about it. Definitely a win.

(H/T to Scott Sanford who showed this to me over on the Book'o'Face)

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