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NOVEMBER 13, 2007    

Lost in translation?

Sign from bus toilet with pig and penguinRiding a bus from Helsinki to Tampere, Finland this summer I had to take a leak, so I went into the small toilet at the back of the bus. While I was standing and peeing I tried to decipher this sign. By the time I figured it out it was too late to make any difference.

I don't know how the average Finnish man reacts to this, but I'd rather be the cheery-looking pig than the prim and proper penguin anyway.

Designing symbols to represent ideas, as in this case, is no easy task even without cultural differences. A study done by the German firm Get2Testing sheds a little light on how people respond to various alternatives for the same idea. [Site no longer available. —AW, Dec. 2010]

It seems that up to a point more detail tends to make the meaning clearer, as long as it the right kind of detail. The more abstract symbols fared the worst, including the "classic" ones designed by the AIGA in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Transportation.

More explanation of pictograms, ideograms and other symbols on my Intro to Visual Communication class site.

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Sunny autumn day

Fall trees, blue sky at Edgewater Park

I hate to look a gift horse in the mouth, but as I enjoyed the 50+ degree sunshine today at Edgewater Park I couldn't help but think that this is more evidence of global warming. What price will we pay for a day like today?

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