If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.

- George Washington

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Signs of the Times

I had to go to Tesco this morning (beer doesn't just grow in the fridge, you know) and I noticed that they now have a separate motorcycle parking bay. Still no iPhone, so I can't show you a photo of it, but it was something like this:

There's something a little odd about this sign, and it got me thinking.

Here's a quiz for you, something mild to tease the brain on a Saturday afternoon:

Here are some commonly-seen signs. What is the slightly unusual thing that they have in common? Answer(if you need it, and you probably won't) in the next post.

1. Railway train

2. Danger of deep water

3. Bicycle

4. Camera

5. Bomb

6. Children

Actually, that's a bit of a cheat. Here's the modern version:


  1. It was easy - but only once I knew I was looking for a connection! Otherwise, I suspect it might never have struck me.

    There's a good argument for suggesting that the symbols themselves were recognisable enough from the outset, and in standing the test of time have simply become a part of the national vocabulary. It no longer matters that the hieroglyph exactly represents the object as long as the symbolic link is strong enough for the viewer to translate it automatically.

    One other that immediately springs to mind is "No Motor Vehicles" - what looks like a Triumph Speed Twin (with optional flyscreen) hovering over a Morris Oxford.

    I saw an incredibly interesting interview with Margaret Calvert on TV not so long ago: she was responsible for a huge part of the motorway and road signage national design project back in the early 60s. That's her as a girl on the original "Children.." sign, apparently. Worth Googling (or start here:
    http://designmuseum.org/design/jock-kinneir-margaret-calvert). The project was successful enough that very little has changed since.

    Or, for a view on how more abstract signs can work, try here:

    Welcome back from your break, by the way. Hope you had a good time.

    (Apologies if this double-posts - had to rewrite it after an internet failure. This version's probably better, anyway!).

  2. Just had to give up last night, when every attempt at posting met with various http 503 errors...

    Otherwise I would have added that the original comment was aimed at the "Part 2" article, where it would have made much more sense! Putting the re-post here was entirely down to me being unobservant.

    Curse this confusing modern technology.

  3. The No Motor Vehicles sign - yes, spot on! In fact, I think it's a Speed Twin with an Avon handlebar fairing, like the Police had. Those swoopy lines are unmistakeable. Seeing a rider with one always made me feel he had his hands in the sink, doing the washing-up.

    Thanks for those links, which I will follow up when I get a moment. I'd like to know more about the signage system, and I find semiotics fascinating (one of those things I intend to study one day, when I ... etc etc).

    The break was great, thanks. And don't worry about all the errors. I've been having a few glitches at this end too - telling me I'm not logged in, page unavailable, 503s, all sorts. I think it must be the wrong time of the month for Blogger.


Comment is free, according to C P Scott, so go for it. Word verification is turned off for the time being. Play nicely.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...