(james benedict brown) on the road

Auntie ditches another design classic

Posted in Posts by James Benedict Brown on 31 January, 2009

Back home, we are very mean to the most senior member of the Brown household, and it’s quite unfair. Just like me, he likes to watch the weather forecast, and does so religiously after the evening news bulletin every night. But he’s a victim of BBC modernisation, since the graphical presentation of the BBC weather forecast is so terrible, he can never remember what the forecast was predicting once it’s finished.

Coming up to four years ago, the BBC abandoned it’s meteorological department’s greatest asset – the ageless design classic that was the set of symbols used to adorn the television weather map. The symbols weren’t modern enough for the Beeb. and they were promptly replaced by a weather map that had no symbols, but instead a graphical simulation of what the weather might actually look like from space. The idea seemed to have been to placate young children who might have been afraid of giant black cloud symbols hovering over entire counties. At the expense of anyone with a black and white television. And while denigrating the status, size and shape of Scotland.

On Monday, the BBC will make the next bold step in insulting it’s audience. This time, there really is no hope for the classic symbols of the old BBC weather map, because the BBC Online Weather pages are being modernised royally screwed over.

Here is an example of the current, and soon to be defunct online weather forecast.


And here is the equivalent part of the new one, currently available online in beta, and live as the default for all weather forecasting from Monday 2 February.


I’ll put the next statement in a paragraph of it’s own, so that the “designer” (self-edit) who came up with the “improved” weather symbols can find it more easily than one can find Aberdeen on the distorted UK weather map.

The weather map icons have been used for more than thirty years because they worked. They are clear. They are simple. They are universal. They can be read in a millisecond. They cannot easily be confused. They can be adapted to reflect many different meterological situations with a single change, and yet retain their legibility. There is nothing wrong with a black cloud, half a sun shining out from behind it, a raindrop and a snowflake beneath it: it describes a typical Glaswegian winter’s day perfectly.


We already tolerate this (above) on our television screens, but with the courteous addition of temperature and wind speed icons. I cannot for the life of me understand this map. It may be technologically impressive, but its usefulness is one minute fraction of the old system.

Will this late night complaint be heard? Maybe. Will anyone who has the power to stop bad visual design at the BBC do anything about it?

No. Not unless a few other mouthy bloggers go on about it, of course :)


One Response

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  1. Joseh Donald said, on 1 February, 2009 at 13:45

    Its good

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