We are witnessing here the toppling of an entire system of company/consumer interaction: Pithy Helvetica. For a while, it seems, the way a company showed that it was clever or hip or young was to broadcast short witty sayings in a clean sans-serif font (see e.g. Ikea, Apple, etc.). (Ikea, with its pseudo-Scandinavian furniture names, is probably worthy of an entire post about its use of Pithy Helvetica.)

But this display, found in a New Haven-area Target store, seems to misunderstand some fundamental criterion of Pithy Helvetica (namely, that the saying make sense) and instead skips directly to Post-Modern Pithy Helvetica, where visual trends may be carried to the extreme and content need not stay in step.

The words here remind me of the lorem ipsum place-holder text used in graphic design and publishing; there is no meaning that can be deduced here. Worse, “grab a goodbuy” goes beyond meaninglessness to introduce conflicting meanings—it is the advertising equivalent of Chomsky’s “colorless green ideas sleep furiously“.

I am further frustrated with this display because it would make perfect sense had some graphic designer or corporate branding expert not asked to have the space between “good” and “buy” removed. “Goodbuy,” aside from sounding like Orwellian newspeak, introduces a homonym pun; i.e. goodbuy = goodbye.

And that would be fine—witty, even—if the display were located by the check-out lanes, and not in the middle of the store, where I found it. The goodbuy/goodbye pun is location-specific, and, separated from location, loses all meaning, inherent or potential.