Monday, August 14, 2006

Stay outta the street!

I have a few variations of this kind of "Children Playing" sign, as you can see in the Warning section at; on the street, there are several more variations.

A few years back, I heard that these rectangular warnings were getting the ol' heave-ho... critics claim that they encourage children to play in the street. (Well, that's just scratching the surface of the real reason.)

So, I snatched these signs up every time I found them in the discard pile at the street department, and built myself quite a collection of duplicates. (Duplicates are not shown on the site.) The funny thing is that, despite their "retirement," I still see brand spankin' new "Children Playing" signs once in a while. I guess they're not making their exit without a few encores.

A great article appeared in Saturday's (August 12, 2006) Journal Gazette, a Fort Wayne, Indiana, newspaper. In the "Road Sage" column, which keeps readers abreast of road construction and closures, a reader asked why the frolicking lad in the "Children Playing" signs is wearing such an old-style outfit. "I've been around for 62 years, and have never seen anyone dressed like the (child in the sign)," the reader points out.

"Road Sage" answers by explaining how these signs are not federally approved or endorsed (hence, its phasing out), and the kid will have to wear his knickers until these signs are retired for good.

You can read the full article here:

Another interesting tidbit not mentioned in "Road Sage" is that the icon of the kid in the knickers is actually outdated in another way. Signs with iconic representations for messages (like the kid running, or children crossing the street to symbolize a school crossing) usually started out with very detailed icons, like the kid in the knickers and hat, and evolved into much more simplified stick-like figures that are better recognized and understood from far distances.

In other words, a driver doesn't need to see the kid's every detail in order to get the message the sign is trying to convey. In fact, these fine details potentially complicate a message that needs to be understood very quickly.

The hard-to-find book "The Design of Danish Traffic Signs" examines the history and redesign of signs using illustrations and icons in Denmark, following their transition from detailed, complicated drawings to simple, easy-to-understand figures. Though Denmark is on a completely different signage system as the States, their minimalist theories behind the design of their signs is very clear.

(Unlike the kid-in-knickers icon.)

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