Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Red's on top, Green's on bottom, I don't know who's in the middle

I work with some talented people. Art directors, production artists, and creative directors... I'm part of a marketing department that produces outstanding work and whose team is extemely attentive to detail.

One day around the rubber X-acto cutting mat, as we were talking about my sign collection, the conversation turned to stoplights, and how red is always on top. This topic does have a bit to do with my job and the marketing department as a whole, as we were also discussing the importance of consistency in branding.

In the world of traffic control, the consistency standards are defined in the MUTCD (Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices). This huge book is the traffic control bible that states, for example, that all stop signs must be eight-sided and red. This is why stop signs look the same just about everywhere you go in the United States. Unfortunately, when you drive in a foreign country that has a different signage system, you're just about screwed.

(Note to self... Print the next full version of the MUTCD on double-sided paper... You'll save a whole tree.)

Anyway, I was shocked when a few of the extremely creative, detail-oriented people I work with every day looked confused when I said that traffic lights are arranged in the order of red-yellow-green, from top-to-bottom. One creative director thought that red was on the bottom. Surprisingly, I think she has an accident-free driving record. She just had no idea... She is oblivious to the world of traffic control standards.

Here I learned a few things: What I thought was common knowledge about traffic signals, really isn't. Then again, I thought every American citizen knew the 50 states and their capitals, but then I found out that half the people I asked didn't even know the capital of the state we live in.

I also realized that I possess a lot of useless detail about traffic signs and signals, like red-yellow-green. But, at least if I ever go color blind, I'll still know when to stop at an intersection.

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