Isn’t it amazing that, no matter in which country you are, you can always tell which door sign marks the bathroom for women and which one marks the bathroom for men? Think about it: you go to a country where you don’t speak the language (maybe they even use a different alphabet), enter in a restaurant where there is no chance you know what you are going to eat… and you can still find your way to the right bathroom.
It might be that we all understand the awkwardness of going into the wrong bathroom (specially if you are in a foreign place) and have developed a global set of symbols that work for everyone.
Or it might work the other way around. Maybe our brain is specially good at reading bathroom signs to avoid the feeling of embarrassment and the funny (sometimes offended) looks from anyone who sees us making the fatal mistake.
I find this fascinating.
Each bathroom sign is an incredible mix of creativity, functionality and social context. From the public and corporate impossible-to-miss icons (think of what you would expect to see at an airport) to full on art pieces; and from inoffensive drawings to obvious sexual references or strong statements about gender equality. From accessible bathrooms to family friendly.
It almost feels like toilet glyphs have now become the universal representation of gender: everyone knows what they mean, even if they have never seen that glyph before or come from a place where the meaning of that symbol is something simply inconceivable.
That’s why last year I started to work in what finally became The Toilet Glyph Project. An Instagram account (that spreads to a Twitter account and a WordPress blog) to collect these signs and think about their meaning -because someone made the choice to put that specific sign on that specific door, and it might be a bigger responsibility than you think.
I hope you have as much fun following @toiletglyphprj as I do finding new signs.