Pictogram Signs: International Symbols of Safety
Posted on August 29, 2013 by Marian Aldana
When people pass by work sites, not many think about the signs that are posted nearby. Certainly not many people, including those who actually work there, think about the accompanying symbols on these signs. Nevertheless, there is a reason why these symbols – or pictograms – have become easily recognizable, and which are now used in Pictogram Signs.
Bridging the Textual Gap
The current population in the United States is diverse, with many different levels of social and educational backgrounds. Each of these groups includes members with varying degrees of reading skills and word comprehension.
While signs that are comprised solely of words are not ineffective, there does remain the possibility that they can be misunderstood. And not being able to understand a sign’s message could result in serious disadvantages, even grave bodily harm. Because of this, people over the years have looked for a means to convey specific safety messages without having them misunderstood, even by people who are not very proficient in reading text.
The Message is in the Design
Pictograms used on signs today belong to a large group of pictograms known as ISOTYPE. ISOTYPE was first developed as a system to help people in Vienna, Austria to understand various statistics displayed in the Social and Economic Museum. Originally called the Vienna Method of Pictorial Statistics, the system employed images instead of numbers to make it easier for people to remember these statistical numbers.
It became popular enough that eventually, museums and governments from other countries contacted the people responsible, namely Gerd Arntz, Marie Reidemeister and Otto Neurath. They were asked to come up with charts and graphs composed of symbols which can be used in these other establishments. As a result, a vast collection of symbols and images was produced, which in turn began to be applied outside of museums.
Standardizing Safety Images
Currently, the International System of Typographic Picture Education has over 4,000 symbols, which are used for signs, as well as charts, posters, instruction manuals, and warning labels. Nowadays, a symbol may not be considered internationally acknowledged and recognized, without having been approved and maintained by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO).
Symbols are subjected to screening committees assigned by the ISO, in order to determine if they may be included for international use. This means that various signs along streets and worksites use symbols which have been screened and tested by people from across the globe.
Standardized safety symbols have proven to be extremely valuable in accident prevention and personal protection. Pictograms are very useful when there is a possibility that people may not be able to read large amounts of text easily due to certain difficulties. As such, Pictogram Signs help facilitate a quicker and more effective means of communicating safety messages. This, then, results in far less accidents and a higher level of safety awareness.
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