Monday, November 16, 2009

Still red, after all these years

The National AIDS Control Organization (NACO) has installed 11,025 Condom Vending Machines (CVM) across all metros and major cities in order to "provide anytime access to quality condoms in a non-embarrassing situation". By that objective, the CVMs have to be placed discreetly and therefore lack the in-your-face subtlety of the family planning advertisements of the 1970s.

Those advertisements could be seen everywhere - especially along the walls of houses and barns in the 'mofussil' areas. Showing a husband, wife and two children and the slogan "We two, ours two" (or local variants thereof), the ads would also have a large inverted red triangle. That triangle went on to become the generic logo of family planning programmes not just in India but also in several other countries. The man who is credited with coming up with that logo, Dharmendra Kumar (Deep) Tyagi, died childless at 41, before he could see the amazing recall his design provided the programmes. But his memory lives on in the name of one of the largest organizations providing subsidized condoms to many parts of the world - DKT International, founded in 1989 by Phil Harvey, who had worked with Deep Tyagi in the 1960s.

DKT International today is a key supplier to NACO; apart from the condoms, DKT International also provides support on distribution of contraceptive products, and for various community sensitising programmes across the country. Somehow, they seem to have got one thing wrong: red may have been the right colour for the inverted triangle, but when you want people to use something, shouldn't you be choosing a colour that invites them to go ahead?

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