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October 31, 2006

Signs and Symbols

Modern sign making has trended too far towards artistic and strayed from functional. I see more and more signs which are unreadable and do not convey enough or any information. The purpose of the sign is to convey information. The name of a business, directions, contact information etc. This is often unreadable. Basics such as white space, contrasting colors and font complexity are often ignored. Critical information is often left off or neglected. In my mind a sign should have in large letters in a highly contrasting color scheme the information required and thats about it. You can add some stylized touches or accents that don't detract from information conveyance.

Symbols are a great way to convey information, especially in a multi-lingual method. Unfortunately, its extremely difficult to produce a symbol that is universally understandable. Red and green traffic lights, male/female washroom signs and VCR controls are symbols that are universally understood. Other symbols aren't so easy, flashing traffic lights and arrows aren't understood, neither are all kinds of symbols introduced into software now a days. Natural language descriptors are much easier to understand, even if they are just labels on the symbol. Problems occur when symbols start taking on different meanings. I've noticed some late model GM vehicles now use the reverse lights to provide exterior illumination. This can become quite confusing when you are traveling through a parking lot.

The point, be clear about the information you are providing and cafeful with how you are providing it.

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