Design Mystery: What am I?

Posted inEditor's Picks
Thumbnail for Design Mystery: What am I?

In 1968, these were the design parameters for something we now see everyday. Do you know what it is?

“Symbol must be readily identifiable from a reasonable distance; must be self-descriptive, must be simple yet esthetically designed with no secondary meaning, and must be practical.”

What am I?

Think you know the answer? Comment below.

Check back tomorrow for the answer.


Yes, to all those who said the parameters above were for the International Symbol of Access, you are correct!!!

Following the Civil Rights Act, the Accessibility Movement began to take off with equality becoming a major theme of the sixties. In 1968, the U.S. Congress passed the Architectural Barriers Act (ABA) requiring that “facilities designed, constructed, altered, or leased with certain federal funds be accessible to persons with disabilities,” according to the Whole Building Design Guide.

Also in 1968, Rehabilitation International (RI) titled its Pan-Pacific Rehabilitation Conference, “Promotion of Non-Handicapped Physical Environments for Disabled People.” It was during that time that RI’s CEO Norman Acton asked Karl Montan, Director of the Swedish Handicap Institute and Chair of the RI International Commission for Technical Aids (ICTA), to develop an International Symbol of Access to present at the World Congress in 1969.

Montan engaged the Scandinavian Design Students Organization. The winning entry was created by Susanne Koefoed, a Danish graphic design student, whose original design showed the body and the wheelchair without a head. Montan added a head in order to “humanize it.” After working with numerous international organizations, the International Symbol of Accessibility was created:

Susanne Koefoed image (left); Montan version (right)

Susanne Koefoed image (left); Montan version (right)

Nearly half a century later, the International Symbol of Access is getting a makeover thanks to Brian Glenney, assistant professor of philosophy at Gordon College in Wenham, Massachusetts. His design is currently being implemented across New York City and depicts a more proactive graphic that denotes freedom and movement.


According to The Chronicle of Higher Education, “Mr. Glenney became interested in disability issues through his work in the philosophy of mind and perception. He has a lab to test out ideas, and while he and Ms. Hendren were experimenting with a device that might help users perceive colors by listening, they came to realize that the standard graphic representation of people with disabilities was “really awkward,” he said. “It’s bad art.”‘




The Logo Brainstorm BookRetail $39.99Your Price: $29.99 (25% Off)Buy Now