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.


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?

Tags: , ,

Leave a Reply

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 RSS feed and follow me on Twitter.

Your message has been sent successfully!