Tag archive: Ampelmännchen
Since my original post on gender-inscribed signage hit the ‘blogwaves’, I’ve found myself closely scrutinising pedestrian crossings (and other sign-heavy areas) for goodies to delight and amuse.
The controlling brotherly hand of the child (seen in the last post) seems to easily become the controlling ‘husbandy’ hand of the man, if this image (snapped on one of my flâneur-esque wanders) is anything to go by. Careful there darling…
As Scott McCloud suggested, in the excellent Understanding Comics, one can abstract the human form, or (in particular) the human face, quite significantly without the image in question losing its meaning.
When it comes to warning signs the degree of abstraction and simplification (or ornamentation) doesn’t seem to vary enormously from place to place, but there are some interesting differences to be found. While most ‘pedestrian-crossing-guys’ seem to follow the “plain stick figure about to address a snooker table” format, the iconic cautioners of Norway and (the former) East Germany are imbued with far more personality.
Though the Norwegian chap on the right is depicted in full (1950s) business attire, the effect is curiously more reminiscent of “Freddy Krueger” than anything else. On the left, also kitted out in the uniform of the busy, urban gent, we have the Ampelmännchen (or “little man on the traffic signal”), of whom the Wikipedia entry says the following:
The East Berlin Ampelmann was created in 1961 by traffic psychologist Karl Peglau. He theorised that people would respond better to the traffic signals if they were presented by a friendly character, instead of meaningless coloured lights. The spring in his step is reminiscent of typical communist imagery of the enthusiastic worker advancing to a utopian socialist future. However, Peglau is said to have feared initially that the design might be rejected because of its “bourgeois” hat.
Ah yes, nothing like the confidence of a figure marching vigorously towards a “utopian socialist future”. The characters in Irish signs, by contrast, seem instead to be tramping dutifully to mass…or loping disconsolately to school, where a ruler across the back of the head from the Nuns, or Christian Brothers, awaits.