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The Logo on Every Street Corner: The Hidden Meaning Behind the Traffic Signs You See Every Day

Many people do not believe that travel logos are all around them, having a subconscious effect on their behavior. If you are one of these people, here is some evidence that may change your mind: traffic signs. While these signs do not sell a product per se, they are selling a particular type of behavior. Here are the ten major classes of traffic signs and how their design influences your behavior.

1. Signs of Instruction Logo Design

Signs of Instruction Logo Design
The most common signs seen on roads are traffic lights. The classic color scheme used in the United States and most countries is green for ‘go’, red for ‘stop’, and yellow as a warning that a light is about to turn red. These lights are lit with light bulbs so that it is almost impossible not to see them. There has been some controversy about the color choice because with graphic design logos the color red subconsciously makes people feel like taking action rather than stopping their action, and because color-blind people often cannot distinguish between green and red.

2. Signs of the Forbidden Logo Design

Signs of the Forbidden Logo Design
Signs that forbid actions, such as stop signs, are usually red with white lettering and a white border to further increase visibility. Many of these signs are octagons, which incorporate the inclusiveness of the circle with the authority of a square shape. Because stop signs are similar in most countries, this convention makes it easy for drivers who do not speak or read a language to understand what is being asked of them.

3. Signs of Regulation Logo Design

Signs of Regulation Logo Design
Speed limits, weight limits, and other regulated limits commonly use a white rectangle with black lettering and a black border, making these graphic design logos universal. This may be both because of the power associated with a square as well as the high contrast of black and white. Even with the many distractions on a road or highway, such as foliage and buildings, it is easy to pick out these signs, which is exactly what government officials want.

4. Signs of Warning Logo Design

Signs of Warning Logo Design
Although few people make the connection, yield signs, animal crossings, railroad warnings, and other warning signs all have the same basic form: a diamond shape in deep gold with black writing and borders. This yellow is a bright, attention-grabbing color that is not present in most environments, helping these signs to stand out. Yellow also is associated with caution in graphic design logos, making it a very appropriate color for these signs. The diamond shape is simply an authoritative square turned on its side, which distinguishes it from the squares used in other signs.

5. Signs of Information Logo Design

Signs of Information Logo Design
It’s important to distinguish mile markers, location indicators, and other informative signs from those that are giving commands. This is why a very different shape and color palette are used for these signs. The deep green is a soothing color that is associated with nature and geography, which makes these signs easy to recognize as location signs. The edges are often rounded to take away from the commanding presence of the square of these graphic design logos.

6. Signs of Services Logo Design

Signs of Services Logo Design
When you are on a long trip, you probably notice that signs designating necessary services such as food, water, and gasoline are everywhere. These graphic design logos are usually blue with white writing and borders. The bright blue used in these signs is the same color as water. This is because water is the most necessary commodity for human life. We subconsciously associate blue not just with life-giving resources, but also with the relaxation that these services offer to travelers. As with in formative signs, the edges of service signs are often rounded to take away from the commanding presence of the square.

7. Signs of Life Logo Design

Signs of Life Logo Design
School zones, parks, and other places where pedestrians and children are likely to be present have their own color palette and design. The white with black scheme used for regulations is usually combined with a bright fluorescent yellow in signs like this. While yellow is the color of warning, a different and distinct yellow is generally used to differentiate these graphic design logos from normal warning signs. Lights or flags are often attached to these signs at times when foot traffic is heaviest, increasing the visibility of these signs and the safety of the people who are present.

8. Signs of Change Logo Design

Signs of Change Logo Design
These signs are used when there is construction or other changes to the normal flow of traffic, such as in ‘Men at Work’ and detour signs. In this case, orange is used because it is a bright color that is not used in any other street signs. Different shapes are used according to the type of change that is occurring, with diamonds and squares being the most common. Arrows may be used to communicate new directions, which is common in graphic design logos, as well as the desired movement of traffic.

9. Signs of Places of Interest Logo Design

Signs of Places of Interest Logo Design
Brown is a color normally associated with earth and earthy activities, which makes it a perfect color for forest service graphic design logos as well as signs that indicate campgrounds, outdoor wonders, and forests. It is also a less attention-grabbing color, which keeps these signs from detracting from the yellow, white, and orange signs that imply mandatory compliance.

10. Signs of Compassion Logo Design

Signs of Compassion Logo Design
As of now, there is no designated color palette for signs and graphic design logos that indicate disabled access or other signs that indicate services for people with special needs. While blue and white is the most common color scheme due to the fact that special services are being offered, the most recognizable aspect of these signs is the unique wheelchair icon that implies disability. While most disabled persons are not actually in wheelchairs, this logo is a true success story because its meaning is recognized by most Americans.

As you can see, ‘logos’ are all around us. Even street signs are designed with the attention to shape and color that a professional graphic designer uses when designing a logo. The message here is that attention to details can create a powerful impression, one that commands action. Your logo can have the same effect when it is designed using these same principles.

Mash Bonigala

Mash B. is the Founder & Creative Director of Logo Design Works. Since 1998, Mash has helped thousands of businesses express their brand messages through creative and award winning logo designs.