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How Bathroom Stick-Figures Became Universal Symbols

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iStock

The classic male and female bathroom symbols have been under a lot of scrutiny in recent years, but it doesn’t look like they’re going away any time soon. While the crude stick-figures may not be the most clever, accurate, or progressive examples of bathroom signage, they have earned the distinction of being the most universally understood.

The rise of international pictograms began in Vienna in 1924. The city’s Social and Economic Museum was looking to convey their data in a way that could be easily comprehended by every visitor, so they replaced numbers with pictograms. This new technique, called the Vienna Method of Pictorial Statistics, was so effective that it quickly gained popularity around the world. Government organizations and other museums were commissioning the Vienna institution to create charts and graphs for them. The system was eventually renamed Isotype (International System Of Typographic Picture Education) and a visual dictionary of over 4000 universal symbols was compiled.

One of the most successful applications of global pictorial language was bathroom signs, but the figures we recognize today didn’t become widespread until later in the 20th century. In the mid-1960s, the British Rail became one of the first railways to implement a standard design style for all signs in their trains, stations, and restrooms. This was around the same time that mass tourism and an increasingly globalized economy were making universal signs more important than ever. In the '70s, the U.S. followed Britain’s lead by adopting a comprehensive sign system for their public transportation networks. The American Institute of Graphic Arts was commissioned to develop a set of pictograms that would be used to identify elevators, escalators, babies’ changing rooms, and public lavatories in transit locations around the country. Thirty-four such symbols were created (today we use 50), and they’re still as easily interpreted today as they were 40 years ago.

Accurately representing the entire male and female population with a pair of pictograms is almost impossible, but the standard signs are still clear enough to transcend cultural lines. Drawing men as basic stick-figures and women as stick-figures sporting skirts is a common experience for children throughout Europe, Asia, and the Americas. This may be one reason why the pictures elicit a conditioned response. Even in cultures where most women don’t wear skirts and most men don’t wear pants, the imagery is common enough in some of the larger nations to make it a recognizable symbol around the world.

There are still many countries that use their own bathroom sign systems (much to the frustration of foreign visitors). In Poland, women's lavatories are indicated with a circle while men’s are branded with a triangle. Lithuania bathroom signs use an inverted pyramid for men’s rooms and a standard pyramid for ladies. Perhaps such symbolism is more neutral than what we use in the States, but it’s not very helpful to foreigners facing a bathroom emergency.

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The North Face
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Design
The North Face's New Geodesic Dome Tent Will Protect You in 60 mph Wind
The North Face
The North Face

You can find camping tents designed for easy set-up, large crowds, and sustainability, but when it comes to strength, there’s only so much abuse a foldable structure can take. Now, The North Face is pushing the limits of tent durability with a reimagined design. According to inhabitat, the Geodome 4 relies on its distinctive geodesic shape to survive wind gusts approaching hurricane strength.

Instead of the classic arching tent structure, the Geodome balloons outward like a globe. It owes its unique design to the five main poles and one equator pole that hold it in place. Packed up, the gear weighs just over 24 pounds, making it a practical option for car campers and four-season adventurers. When it’s erected, campers have floor space measuring roughly 7 feet by 7.5 feet, enough to sleep four people, and 6 feet and 9 inches of space from ground to ceiling if they want to stand. Hooks attached to the top create a system for gear storage.

While it works in mild conditions, the tent should really appeal to campers who like to trek through harsher weather. Geodesic domes are formed from interlocking triangles. A triangle’s fixed angles make it one of the strongest shapes in engineering, and when used in domes, triangles lend this strength to the overall structure. In the case of the tent, this means that the dome will maintain its form in winds reaching speeds of 60 mph. Meanwhile, the double-layered, water-resistant exterior keeps campers dry as they wait out the storm.

The Geodome 4 is set to sell for $1635 when it goes on sale in Japan this March. In the meantime, outdoorsy types in the U.S. will just have to wait until the innovative product expands to international markets.

[h/t inhabitat]

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Emojipedia
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Design
These Are the 157 New Emojis Coming to Your Phone
Emojipedia
Emojipedia

If words alone aren’t enough to express yourself while texting, there are now new emojis at your disposable. As Slate reports, the roster of flags, smiley faces, and random sports equipment just grew by 157 pictographs. After receiving the stamp of approval from the Unicode consortium, these emojis will soon be making an appearance on your keyboard.

The release of the redhead emoji has been long-anticipated, but this newest batch includes curly hairstyles as well for the many people without straight locks. Texters also now have the choice of gray hair or no hair at all when designing their emoji avatars.

Other human-related additions include superhero and super villain emojis in various skin tones and hairdos. There are 10 new animal emojis, including a badger, a peacock, a lobster, and a kangaroo, as well as six new food emojis, like a cupcake, a mango, and a lettuce leaf.

People who prefer classic smiley-face emojis will be happy to see the six new options in that category: cold face, hot face, partying face, pleading face, woozy face, and smiling face with four hearts. Along with these come plenty of new entries, like the dismembered leg, petri dish, abacus, safety pin, and lacrosse stick.

After announcing the initial designs on February 7, the emoji-standardizing team at Unicode will vote on the final versions in June before they’re made available to phone companies.

[h/t Slate]

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