signs and information culture

I took a class in the school of education’s IST department over the summer and did a short collection assignment. We had to choose a set of instructional/informational graphics from our lived environment. I took my road trip from Indiana to California when I moved Aaron to San Francisco as the perfect opportunity to work on my collection (I am always taking pictures of road signs/bathroom signs/warning signs, it’s a bit of an obsession). What I turned in for the assignment was an analysis of the physical attributes of the signs I collected; color scheme, typography, shape, size, the structure, as well as some of the instructional/informational components which were visible through the design and display of the signs.

What I did not address were some of the things Manovich discusses in the beginnings of “the language of new media” as well as what we talked about with Erik last week… Things such as the ways in which the signs were actually created, the tools used by the designer and how that might affect the outcome for the viewer of the signs. I also failed to address how the signs might fit into the overarching “information/visual culture” which we are constantly experiencing each and every day and how this might impact someone who is driving by them on the road. There is also this concept of representation, how was the message of the sign represented through the symbols chosen for that sign? I think this deserves another look on my part, I will be going back to do another iteration on the collection assignment or at least add it to my long list of things to do…



  1. thismarty

    Another thing that you might want to consider in your analysis, Kaycee, is how the formalisms of graphic design and information design have shaped the signage that you have collected. Chances are, most of them were created by people trained in these disciplines, thus what you see will have been lensed by their practices and dogma.

  2. kaycereed

    Good point, Marty. Just as we have been shaped as designers through the IU HCID lens, sign creators come from that graphics design school of thought (which might include things not completely obvious to the viewers of the signs they create).

    While the large majority of the signs I took pictures of were common road signs (to depict a warning for drivers or locations of general services such as gas stations, food, or hotels) the two I posted pictures of here were amongst the most interesting to me. I can’t say I’ve ever seen a “safe surrender” sign in Indiana on the side of a firestation or any warnings of mountain lions.


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