The Language of Signs on Slate

Slate is running a really nice series of articles about signage this week.

Road signs are one of the, well, sign systems that got invented usage started, so I'm excited to see them examined in depth.

The first part in the series discusses the guy at left, who dressed up as a Caltrans worker and posted his own interstate sign because he was so fed up with the poor signage.

The second part provides an neat tour and analysis of what can go wrong in a poor sign system. I'm also looking forward to part four, about the informal maps we draw each other. These semiotic systems all fall under the heading of 'wayfinding', which is not just about making nice signs, but rather covers the whole science of how people will use signs to find their way. Wayfinding designers consider common use cases and other possible routes users might take -- a lot of the same steps user interface designers go through when planning a web site.

One of the most interesting things about linguistics and semiotics is the fact that people use language systems almost unconsciously (until the systems fail). That's the starting point of the Slate article ('They're the most useful thing you pay no attention to.'), so I'm already on board.

Thanks to Sonia for sending this over.

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