Monday, November 10, 2008


I never realized how often we use isotypes/pictographs, so I went looking for an older examples.  The pictures I posted is from 1944, and is comparing the 1937 male to female ratio in Great Britian and in the Soviet Union.  There are five age groups, and each symbol equals 250,00 people.

Of course this isn't the earliest example of pictographs.  Pictographs can be dated clear back to the days of cave painting, but Otto Neurath is the one credited for making them universal.  The person symbol is still used to this day, and variations of it can ben seen quite often.  The universal sign for restrooms is a great example.  The only variation is the dress shape on the female sign.  In the picture above, the shape of the person according to country.  People aren't the only thing used in pictographs.  They are now used in parks, airports, office buildings, malls, etc, and the simpler the better.  I honestly don't see pictographs going away anytime soon.  They may actually gain even more popularity.



April G. said...

I find a lot of humor in these little signs. They vary depending on the area that you are in and the meaning can be construed differently depending on how you look at them. I've noticed at the Cancun airport, the pictograms for the men and women are slightly different than what we use here in America. I also remember taking several photos in London of signs that I'd see around town, in the flat I stayed in, at the airport, street signs etc.... The pictograms were much funnier than the straightforward stuff we have here. I'd post photos but it'd mean having to dig through old boxes of stuff to find them. So instead, I did a quick search online and found this interesting restroom sign in Tijuana, Mexico.

gdhistory anderson becker carter said...

Seeing these symbols reminds me of last semester's Type, Image, and Symbol class with Cherie. I understood what we were doing but learning the history of the use of symbols has allowed me to truly understand why we use them. They are a powerful tool that can help travelers, foreigners, and illiterate individuals understand things. Symbols and pictograms are universal and help to make people feel more comfortable. They also go along with the Swiss DeStijl movement and the unification and universality of typography and design.

gdhistory anderson becker carter said...

That image was very interesting to see that they used the isotypes when collecting and displaying data