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Misreading visual language

Just a thought about how we attribute meaning to visual symbols.

I recently ran up against this little problem... a public toilet block on a beach in Fuerteventura. As you can see from my little drawing above, there are two doors, and two titles above the doors. The wording is in Spanish, which I don't speak, and also in the AIGA's pictogrammic language.

So... I looked at the the two doors, then I looked at the signage. I don't read Spanish so I didn't understand what 'Vestuario' meant, but I did know that the two little figures meant toilet. Quite a surprise, then to find just a bench in the room and no toilet. The local designers had used the icon to mean 'unisex' rather than 'toilet', and 'vestuario' means changing room. I got quite cross about this - if you're going to use an international language, don't change the meaning! What I should do, of course, is learn Spanish.

Posted by Brian 21.3.04 [ page link ]


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