Jeremy Osborn: Designer, Educator, Writer

Jul 08

Signs, signs everywhere are signs . . .

There’s an exercise I once gave to my graphic design students which required they create a road sign using Illustrator. The catch was that they had to illustrate a concept such as “Fortune Teller Ahead”. In addition to the comedy value, the exercise forced students to consider the challenge of creating these visual symbols.

What makes a “good” sign is somewhat straightforward: the average person needs to parse the sign from a distance (especially in a fast-moving car), the shape and color of the sign carry important cues and so on.

So I wanted to share this sign that I often pass  on my way to work.  I’ve scaled the sign and placed it next to some other familiar signs in order to compare and contrast at thumbnail size.

557px-Yield_sign_svgCircular_Intersection_signshare_the_roadphoto

See the sign up close.

This road sign is found in the town of Concord (MA) and it’s a curious one. The shape of the sign is for a road warning, however the message “Share The Road” is less of a warning than a gentle reminder. The amount of information on the sign doesn’t work in its favor. The multi-color palette is unusual as well as the non-standard typeface. Also, the details point to the designer getting a bit carried away: Why do we need  the tagline “Concord” on the sign? Was it necessary to put a dog in the back seat? What about the jogger and the biker in the foreground. Wouldn’t one or the other be enough?

Since I first thought of this post I’ve noticed in other areas that the “Share the Road” concept usually requires two signs: one for an image of a bicycle and another for the text. Is the concept too big for a single sign?

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Jeremy Osborn's Blog

This is the weblog of Jeremy Osborn, a designer, educator and writer living in the Boston area. I write here about design, technology and other matters. Subscribe to the jeremyosborn.com RSS feed and follow me on Twitter.

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