A View from John Maeda

Subliminal Message

A lot can be read in a WC sign.

  • October 31, 2007

The basic icons of “man” and “woman” are common to any building’s signage program to demarcate the location of restrooms. Each country has a different twist on the man and woman. In the United States, the iconified people are normally standing erect and with legs together; in most southern European countries, they stand with legs apart in a relaxed stance. Trendy restaurants around the world like to throw certain twists to make it confusing for their guests, like the restrooms in a Shanghai restaurant that use the man and woman symbols (♂ / ♀); because I can’t remember which is which, I had to peek in the bathrooms to see which one had urinals in it. Luckily, both of the restrooms were empty …

I took the photo of the above sign in Japan. Note that one side has diaper-changing facilities and the other doesn’t. A lot is said in such a simple sign.

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