Before the creation of a written language, characters were used to convey messages and correlate stories. In modern times, people have come to rely on symbolic signs to move in unfamiliar places. In the digital world, smileys have become universal symbols, precursors of symbolic signs. Until the 1970s, however, the symbols were not standardized in the United States, which confused travellers.

In our global multicultural society, today’s symbols are more important than ever. The need for universal means of communication also extends to our workplaces, to public places such as hospitals and schools, and to the streetscape in pedestrian areas. Symbols have the unique ability to overcome borders and language barriers.

In the late 1970s, the U.S. Department of Transportation collaborated with the American Institute of Graphic Design to develop a unique set of symbols for travelers in the United States.  For example, a set of 50 characters was developed, mainly for use at intersections and international events such as the Olympic Games. The symbols are designed to combine language, age, culture and gender. In a good sense, these symbols represent the basic elements, including the indication of bathrooms, escalators, lifts and stairs, food, slopes for the disabled, exits and entrances and much more.  The symbols are free of copyright and download rights. They are standardized and catalogued for use by the companies producing the brands.

Universal Symbols: the Pre-cursors to Emojis? – The International Sign Alliance

In addition to the faithful representation of the symbol, the signage must be strategically placed to make it as legible as possible. When making signs, material factors (especially for outdoor use), print clarity and careful use of background colours must be taken into account.

Choosing an international signage partner such as TISA guarantees that your signage is produced to the highest standards. Teams of experts are present all over the world to install your signage where you need it.

Society is becoming more and more diverse. Universal symbols are more relevant today than ever, not only in airports and train stations, but also as a means of communication where people come into contact with their environment.

Contact an international signage expert today to find out what you need around the world.

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