Universal Misunderstanding

Sometimes the universal sign system is not so universally understandable. This “ban” sign (above) could mean No Loitering, but it could also mean No Prostitution Here (like the sign below). It could, however, also mean No Leaning Against the Building or No Waiting for a Bus. It could even mean No Standing on One Leg. But whatever it means, its ambiguity proves that sign symbols do not always mean what they seem to mean. The sign below was proposed by German authorities to stop 2006 World Cup tourists from picking up girls off the street. Prostitution is legal in Germany but only in certain areas, and the street signs are planned to stop football fans from pestering women.

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Daily Heller, Imprint: Print Magazine's Design Blog

About Steven Heller

Steven Heller is the co-chair of the SVA MFA Designer /Designer as Author + Entrepreneur program, writes frequently for Wired and Design Observer. He is also the author of over 170 books on design and visual culture. He received the 1999 AIGA Medal and is the 2011 recipient of the Smithsonian National Design Award.

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