In 1965, the road signage system was created by two London designers – Jock Kinneir and Margaret Calvert – using a mixture of lowercase and uppercase letters for the utmost recognition. When testing a full uppercase approach, the designers found this combination to be a better way of conveying information much more smoothly.
Especially when such signs would be viewed while we’re driving at speeds of up to 70mph.
Perhaps without realising, we have adopted an acknowledgement of road sign shapes and their meaning. For example, circles are used for signs that give orders, while triangles deliver warnings and rectangles give us information. But it isn’t just shape or typography we have become accustomed to…
What about colour?
One of the best ways to discuss colour in popular places is of course, health and safety signage. These well known signs can be broken down into four colour categories.
If all signs and symbols disappeared tomorrow, we’d all be pretty screwed. Imagine driving on the motorway without knowing where the next services are (snacks are important), having no idea that a road is one way or where to expect a hidden dip. But it isn’t all about being on the road.
Picture this, you’ve just been paid and you’ve treated yourself to a new cardigan. That burger at lunch was messier than you thought and now there’s ketchup all down the front – how the hell are you going to get that out? Well, you’d look at the label right? Unless you wanted your new favourite knitwear to come out a size perfect for your neighbour’s new pug.
Those little laundry symbols – or pictograms – give us all the information we need to know to (hopefully) avoid shrinking or ruining our favourite attire. We take them for granted, but they must have come from somewhere? Well, they do. In the early 1960s, chemical fibers were produced on a wide scale, taking straight forward textile care to a whole new confusing level. Verbal care information was no longer enough and with so many languages to cater for, those symbols we now know and understand were developed.
It isn’t all about finding things by car. Saving us from embarrassment, popular yellow designs point us to the nearest public toilet, baby changing facility and wheelchair access restroom. These are all symbols we take for granted.
These designs don’t have to be complicated, wordy or glamorous. In fact, we understand their meaning more when they’re simplistic and imitate the object they are portraying.
We’ve seen signs and icons develop with our technology in order to stay current, changing symbols that no longer look like the object it is referring to. But for as long as we have an understanding of colour meanings and their associations, I don’t see these hero designs going anywhere anytime soon.