The Nantucket Way

July 22, 2015

Hello, readers. I am back from the latest in a years-long line of annual family vacations to Nantucket, and every time I visit I spot a small army (mostly the undercover units, not the obvious infantry) of visual differences between the “standard versions” and the “Nantucket versions” of many things. I thought I would chronicle some of these here. Let’s begin with Stop & Shop.

Stop & Shop Sign Comparison

Above is the “usual suspect” Stop & Shop logo, followed by a special version made for their Nantucket store. As far as I know, Stop & Shop does not use a nonstandard version of its logo in any place besides Nantucket (if you find that this is untrue, please let me know: nicholas@nicholaswindsorhoward.com). However, they have not only taken the time to make a wooden sign with a gold-painted, protruding, beveled version of their logo; they have also set their letters in a serif typeface. Specially for Nantucket, they eschew their usual color scheme, choice of sign-making material, and corporate typeface.

But the visual exceptions of the Nantucket Stop & Shop extend beyond the sign alone. The grocery company has decorated the building according to Nantucket’s strict design requirements: unpainted shingles and pitched roofs. This differs heavily from the usual Stop & Shop construction, which uses a flat roof and a (painted) wall of clapboards, concrete, and brick. I find the Stop & Shop in a Nantucket mask (what an intriguing image: picture the island mirrored and superimposed on someone’s face, one Nantucket for each eye) the most outwardly beautiful grocery store in my memory. As you might guess, I have never said that before.

Now that we have Stopped & Shopped, we can move to my other photo comparison. Here I show a standard U. S. “Children at Play” street sign next to a Nantucket version:

Slow Children Sign Comparison

The standard sign is yellow, while the Nantucket sign is pale brown. (I include the “20 M.P.H.” sign to show that the island of Nantucket applies this unusual appearance to other signs besides “Children at Play.”) The people responsible for the Nantucket sign made an odd choice of glyph, with what appears to be a “businessman and businesswoman” silhouette. I will assume this inaccurately portrays the children of Nantucket, though I like to imagine a Nantucket boy ambling along the road with his miniature briefcase. (That image reminds me of... me.)

Even beyond the land of silhouettes with floating circular heads, there is a more immediately practical consequence afoot with the brown Nantucket sign: it demonstrates that the people who put it there are willing to sacrifice some visibility to achieve a certain look (yellow is widely considered to be among the most attention-grabbing, easily-visible colors, which, despite that I could not easily find reliable sources for this theory, makes sense on an intuitive level). This look happens to match well with Nantucket’s proliferation of pale colors.

The dominion of Nantucket runs deep, shallowly... Do I even like that description? ... I am not at all sure. But I do like the standard to which Nantucket holds itself, and I thought I could take a metaphorical loupe to these signs and write something worth thinking about.

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