Thursday, July 1, 2010

The Global Impact of Great Graphic Design

Look at the sign on the left. If you’re an American, its meaning is instantly clear: EXIT means GET OUT HERE. It’s obvious, right? The glowing red color conveys urgency and is easily spotted in any commercial space.

But according to Julia Turner, in a fascinating article in Slate, people from other countries are confounded by our familiar icon, and much prefer the green running man on the right.

If you think about it, the graphic design on the right makes a lot more sense. The running man, which was designed by about 40 years ago Yukio Ota, can be understood even by people who can’t read English, including those who interpret the color red as signifying DANGER or STOP (not “go this way to be safe”).

Turner writes, “International designers tend to think our system is illogical and consider our rejection of the running man to be as dumb as our refusal to adopt that other sensible international norm, the metric system.”

But change is inevitable — and good graphic design inevitably triumphs, especial in a word class city like New York, which altered the fire code four years ago to mandate that high-rises include the running man on fire doors on every floor.

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