When a pictogram speaks a thousand words

Mark Bartlett – Director


Whilst on a recent trip to rural Spain and having enjoyed a few cervezas, I made the schoolboy error of finding myself in the ladies’ loo. A quick glance at the adjacent doors marked ‘M’ and ‘H’ had me diving into the men’s without a second thought. It was only the smiles from a young woman – a mujer – waiting patiently outside that the penny dropped (excuse the pun) that I had embarrassingly entered the wrong cubicle!


Contemplating this later, I was sure I could not possibly be the only post-pandemic, travel-starved tourist that had fallen for poor signage. The vagaries of international translations for Male or Female, Gents or Ladies, Bathroom or Restroom, could lead to a whole host of abbreviations that would have even a multi-linguist confused and cross-legged outside the door. As travel opens up again, the need for internationally recognised pictograms has never been so vital – and that goes for accessibility signage for users with impaired vision and physical disabilities too.


UK legislation in the form of the Building Regulations 2010 and the Workplace Regulations 1992, places a duty on employers to provide suitable sanitary conveniences and handwashing, with specific details about facilities in the workplace and the number required. Best practice inclusivity design standards, such as BS 8300, also require that facilities accommodate a diverse range of needs for sex-specific and gender neutral/unisex toilets.


A recent Government consultation has noted a trend towards the removal of sex-specific facilities over the last few years, replacing them with gender-neutral toilets. Similarly, a YouGov poll also found that a third of people would prefer a mix of sex-specific, and unisex toilets, which points towards a growing understanding that equality means accessibility for everyone.


As signmakers, we understand the importance of using pictograms to convey all types of information that needs to be processed quickly, whether it is regulatory, mandatory, warning or prohibitory – and none more so when language is a barrier. At shop.signbox.co.uk we have a complete range of commonly used iconography to suit any budget, for further information or advice, please contact us here.

Get in touch