Signs that Function

Trash can asking to be used.

Trash can asking to be used.

Warning sign, it's icy here.

Warning sign, it’s icy here.

No smoking, and put your butt somewhere sensible.

No smoking, and put your butt somewhere sensible.

Elevator, going down.

Elevator, going down.

A trash can begs you to use it—its mouth open wide—like a baby bird waiting to be fed. You can practically hear it whimpering. Objects that manage to illustrate their function will usually make me stop for a second look. I wonder whether the designer is using their medium to engage the audience. To whom do they imagine they are speaking? I try to picture that person.

I find the yellow it’s slippery here pilon to be more of a prophesy than a warning. First one exclamation mark, then another, then the slip—if you follow that vertical line, I think you could get quite dizzy, and fall.

The No Smoking sign with what looks to be tree branches growing from the man’s mouth is confusing. If you should not smoke, then why is there no X over the smoker? In fact, why not use an image of a man putting out his cigarette butt properly? The ashtray is just around the corner.

I actually quite like the Lift sign. First of all, I like the retro design of the female and male icons. Secondly, I really like the literal illustration of the elevator in motion. My only question is— going up, or going down? Because I think I want to go up!

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The Bauhaus Archiv

Entrance to the Bauhaus Archiv.

Entrance to the Bauhaus Archiv.

The somewhat eerie Bauhaus Archiv in Berlin echoes with memories of its historic faculty and students. It houses a collection of the works and history of the school (1919–1933), and its design is based on founder, Walter Gropius’s original plans.

Bauhaus Archiv washroom sign.

Bauhaus Archiv washroom sign.

While the building did not exist during the actual Bauhaus years, small details, like the washroom signs, reflect the spirit of the era. The school, whose ideals included closing the gap between craftsman and artist, was not only a place of learning, but a complete lifestyle. On my visit there was a photo exhibit depicting the experimentation in the medium of photography, as well as a glimpse of the life they led.

  • Marianne Brandt‘s collage photos and commentary on the role of Bauhaus women.
  • Lucia Moholy was asked by Gropius to document the buildings.
  • My favourite, Lyonel Feininger experimented with photography with wonderful results.
  • Feininger’s son, T. Lux Feininger grew up at the Bauhaus, and took photos of daily life.
Poster Wall at the Bauhaus Archive.

Poster Wall at the Bauhaus Archive.

Eventually the Bauhaus was forced by the Nazis to close its doors, and the faculty and students dispersed throughout the world. With the completion of the archive in 1978 the collection has made its way to a central home.