Pictograms and Road Signs For The Environment: How To Create Your Own

Environmental signs are the signs in the environment and on products that makes it easy for people to interact smoothly with products for their usage as well as the things in the physical environment such as roads, streets etc. Two main signs are discussed in this article namely,
pictograms on the package and road/traffic signs.


Pictograms are graphical symbols representing an idea or thought. They mostly have an association with the idea that they portray. Today, most pictographs are used as symbols on packaged products to warn clients of the dangers or hazards associated with mishandling of the product. They also educate clients about the ‘likes and dislikes’ of the product. Examples of pictograms mostly used on packages are shown below.

a. Umbrella with drops of rain falling on it- This indicates that the product is waterproof.
b. Broken Glass- This means the product is breakable or fragile, so it has to be handled with care.
c. This Way Up- This is a symbol with arrows that indicates where a package is supposed to be opened.

Road Signs

Road signs are the signs erected along the streets to show road users what to do and what not to do at particular times and places on the road. Road users include motorists, pedal cyclists, motorcyclists, and pedestrians. Road signs and markings are used to guide, warn, inform, direct, prohibit and regulate the usage of the road. Road signs are classified into three, namely:

1. Warning signs

2. Regulatory signs

3. Informatory signs

1. Warning signs

These traffic signs are encased in red triangular borders with white backgrounds. They indicate a hazard ahead on the road that may be hidden from road users. Examples are:

a. Right Bend- This means the road ahead bends to the right.
b. Roadway Narrows- This indicates that the road ahead narrows.
c. Pedestrian Crossing- This means that pedestrians cross the road at that section and thus, drivers must drive slowly at that spot.

2. Regulatory or Prohibitory signs

These traffic signs are encased in red circular borders with white backgrounds. They are used to indicate a regulation that applies to the use of traffic lanes on the road as well as vehicles ahead of them.

a. No U-turn- This indicates that road users, especially motorists must not move their vehicles in a U-turn at that section of the road because it is not permitted by the road licensing authority.
b. No Entry- This means that no vehicle is allowed to enter that spot.
c. No Overtaking- This indicates that it is risky for motorists to overtake

3. Informational / Directional signs

These traffic signs give information to road users on the names of particular locations on the street, the mile coverage to towns and villages along the road etc. They are either in blue or green coloured shapes. The shapes are mostly rectangular in shape.

a. 50KM to Mampong (A town in Ghana) – This gives an information to motorists that they are about 50km to Mampong.

Creating your own signs

There are several rich ideas that are readily available in the environment which the graphic artist can tap for use. They include animate and inanimate objects such as trees, stones, animals, flowers, etc. Also, numerous ideas can be generated from geometric shapes such as triangles, rectangles, square, hexagon, etc. Other viable sources of ideas can be obtained from photographs, illustrations and drawings as well as type or font styles.

The young graphic artist can follow the various stages in idea development to come out with original and unique designs which he can attach symbolic or philosophical meanings to them. The various stages of idea development are:

– Critical examination and analysis
– Analytical drawing
– Add or delete ideas
– Add colour to the design
– Create one or two original designs

1. Critical examination and analysis- This is the first stage in idea development. It involves making a critical examination and analysis of the object, which new ideas can be generated.

2. Analytical drawing- This is the second stage in idea development. At this stage, the artist makes a detailed or analytical drawing of the object under study. He draws the object exactly as it is.
3. Add or delete ideas- The artist skillfully adds or delete some ideas to the original design drawn. This gives the resultant design a new and original look.

4. Add colour to the design- The artist gives the create design different colour effects to see how the final design will look like.

5. Create one or two original designs- Based on the design created, the graphic artist brainstorms and creates an additional one or two original designs. He may apply different colour effects to the created designs. He then shows it to friends, relatives or colleagues and solicits for their general comments and choice. The best design is selected and used for the desired purpose.