The Evolution of Social Distancing Symbols

As we went through a variety of “loading” icons, progress bars, markers and symbols in class, it got me thinking – what other visual representations have a similar breadth and depth of iconography + use?

In my search, I came across this article analyzing the recent evolution in visual representation of social distancing. From symbols used in physical public spaces (discussed in the aforementioned article) to digital symbols like these, “…thousands of variations on social-distancing markers are popping up around the world” – the other notes, and I agree. He continues – “they reflect more than just our need to keep ourselves separated” – interesting…

Architect Ada Kotyńska of art gallery Galeria EL in Elblag, Poland, mowed the gallery’s garden into a checkerboard pattern to promote distancing (Credit: Lukasz Kotynski). Visitors are intuitively drawn to the mowed portions of the lawn, inducing social distancing.

It’s interesting to think about how, as the pandemic progresses and become part of our normal life, these icons for social distancing are becoming more standardized, and widely recognizable. While each country / city still has its nuances, there are learnings that are similar across the board. Bright, solid colors work better than text. Simulating other senses, like touch, work better than simply relying on visual cues. Incorporating emotional components – like those playing on loyalty to a city, or to fellow citizens of an area – are also more effective.

Only time will tell if these symbols become as crucial to our ways of working as the loading symbol!

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