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Street signs get a poignant makeover for the coronavirus era

Social distancing—the practice of staying at least six feet apart in order to curb the spread of coronavirus—has changed our behavior when it comes to navigating public spaces (if we venture out at all). So how would signage look if it were updated to reflect new behavioral patterns?

Running through the now-empty streets of Brooklyn, Dylan Coonrad, creative director at Cannon Design, wondered what it would look like if those “universally recognizable street signs,” as he calls them, were no longer applicable. So he designed some signs of his own to explore the idea.

[Photo: courtesy CannonDesign]

The best signs in the series maintain their communicative function even with the altered message. The icon in the bike lane is now carrying bags of food, in a nod to those using it most these days: delivery workers. A sign that once prohibited crossing train tracks now prohibits hand-shaking, while on another, a fire extinguisher symbol has been replaced by a bottle of hand sanitizer; the “do not block” message replaced by “do not hoard.” Many of the signs feel vaguely dystopian, which may not have been Coonrad’s intent, but certainly feels appropriate given the current state of the world.

[Photo: courtesy CannonDesign]

There are a couple redesigned signs that don’t quite land. For instance, a “Caution wet floor” sign is transformed to say “Celebrate healthcare workers,” sending a confusing message about a hypothetical safety risk and a reminder to give thanks.

There have been a number of recent projects that reimagine common iconography in this new era: from well-known logos to classic album covers. Coonrad’s project is another attempt to grapple with our current reality, and it’s a particularly poignant one, given that most us are under stay-at-home orders, where these are the only street signs we’re allowed to look at.

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