Washroom Signs

Whether these are called washroom signs, restroom signs or bathroom signs, these are all used for one thing, and that is to show people where they can answer the call of nature in relative privacy and comfort. Sometimes called comfort room signs in other countries, these signs help people locate these rooms when they need to. With the help of easy to read texts, universally recognizable symbols and strategic placement in easy to spot areas, these signs show people the way to these facilities.

If you are to look closely at these signs, you will notice a number of common elements on each one. One such feature you will find on these signs that are used for bathrooms is the pictogram that depicts either a man or a woman. Sometimes you will see the pictogram used on handicap parking spaces also on these signs, which indicates that there are facilities available for people with disabilities in these bathrooms.

When Did the Use for Symbols on Washroom Signs Begin?

Bathroom SignsThere is very little information regarding how these signs started, however there is some information on how the symbols that are commonly used for these bathroom signs first came to be. The pictograms that are used on your restroom signs are the product of what is called Isotype. These are essentially pictures that are used to tell a story, with Isotype being an acronym of the phrase International Symbol of Typographic Picture Education. While this is basically a series of pictures used to depict certain connections in society, history and technology, it has been said that this is where pictograms originate from. Hence the connection between Isotype and your common washroom sign symbol.

In 1972, a person by the name of Henry Dreyfuss became an advocate for the use of symbols to help show people how to operate certain machinery easily, no matter what their language, with the use of symbols. He started putting together what he would call his Symbol Sourcebook and this was used by numerous individuals to do what Dreyfuss wanted in the first place, and that was to eliminate language barriers and allow for the safe usage of machinery by almost anyone.

Dreyfuss, seeing how successful his pictograms were, decided to convince the US Department of Transportation to collaborate with the AIGA or American Institute of Graphic Arts, to put together its own compilation of symbols that people can easily understand without having to worry about language barriers. These symbols were to be used in transportation hubs in order to assist numerous travelers of different nationalities and languages. In two years, 1974 to be exact, AIGA was able to create 50 symbols that most of us can see today in travel hubs such as bus terminals, train stations and airports. Included in the 50 symbols that were created are the symbols that you usually see being used to show whether a bathroom is for men or for women.

Variations to these Washroom Sign Symbols

Washroom SignsWhile it is mandatory in the US to use universally recognizable symbols for washroom signs, in other countries, variations to these pictograms are being used. Some bathrooms in the US also try to use unique and interesting pictograms in lieu of the usual AIGA designed ones for men’s and women’s bathrooms, but these are often used alongside those that are approved by the ADA. Since bathroom signs are, after all, ADA signs, the use of such easy to recognize pictograms is still mandatory. The use of variations to these images can be done only if these are not that far removed from the original image or if these are used alongside the usual symbols that have been in use since 1974.

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