Showing posts with label poster. Show all posts
Showing posts with label poster. Show all posts

22 August 2014

Designing Bicycle Symbolism - Towards the Future

The Bicycle as a symbol of progress, of renewal, of promising times ahead. This is not a new concept. Indeed it has been around since the invention of the bicycle. Many bicycle posters at end of the 19th century featured promising themes like liberation, progress, freedom. Here's an example:
Vintage Bicycle Posters: Griffiths
In this beautiful poster, there is a lot of metaphorical gameplay. The young woman is riding a bicycle to the future. Dressed in white and seemingly casting fresh flowers as though leaving a trail for us to follow. The old woman is looking backwards to the past as she sits in a bed of thorns, almost resigned to the fact that the future - the bicycle - is passing her by.

When people in most cultures see art or photgraphy, our brain sees movement from left to right and interprets the piece based on that.

The German historian and psychologist Rudolf Arnheim who wrote, among other books, "Art and visual perception – A psychology of the creative eye" noticed that the way many cultures read - from left to right - has an influence on the way we look at art or photography.

‘Since a picture is “read” from left to right, pictorial movement toward the right is perceived as being easier, requiring less effort’.

Bicycles often look better when heading off to the right. In the photo shoots we've done for bicycle brands, we are always careful to shoot the right side of the bicycle wherever possible, so that the chainguard is visible. It just looks better with the chainguard in the shot, but it also looks better heading to the right.
Cycle Chic Photo Shoot for Velorbis
Photo shoot for Velorbis catalogue.

Here are a couple of examples of  'reading' a photo.

At top left, the girl in the poncho looks like she is struggling into a snowblown headwind, which she was. At bottom left, by flipping the photo horizontally, she looks like she is sailing on a tailwind. The pedestrians, as well.

At top right, the bicycle users appear to have an easy go of it with a tailwind. Which they weren't. At bottom right they appear to be muscling into the snow and wind.

The flag at the top is the party flag for the Samajwadi political party in India. In 2012, their rising star, Akhilesh Yadav, won a landslide election in the Uttar Pradesh state elections. Yadav campaigned tirelessly and he rode hundreds of kilometres around the state on his bicycle and organised bicycle rides. Reuters has an article about his rise to power. He thrashed the heir-apparent in Indian politics, Rahul Ghandi by appealing to the working classes, sleeping in villagers huts and aligning himself with the demands of the regular citizens. And the man can even text and cycle at the same time. He's got our vote.

So a bicycle is a fitting symbol for the party. For any progressive party who aspire to be agents of change. I have no idea if the designer thought about the positioning of the bicycle on the flag at the top. Based on this Left to Right perception, the bicycle isn't heading away from us, carrying us to a better future and all the other metaphors you can think of.. The positioning of it - in our perception - suggests that it is going in the opposite direction. Going against the flow, or against the grain, as it were. Which can be symbolic in a positive sense for a political party wishing to embrace change and deconstruct the status quo, but that's far too subliminal. Interestingly, on the political party's Facebook group and elsewhere, there are versions of the flag reversed so it points left to right.

This started out as an article about Mr Yadav and his party's use of the bicycle as a symbol. A discussion started here at Copenhagenize Design Company, however, about how bicycles are positioned in signage and pictograms.

If we suppose that a bicycle heading from left to right is 'positive' symbolism for our sub-conscious perception, then surely bicycle pictograms and signage should feature this directional placement.

We all went over the window to look at the Danish standard on the cycle tracks outside and looked at other examples from around us in Copenhagen.

(Clockwise from top left) The Danish standard as dictacted by the Road Directorate is a bicycle heading from right to left, although the logo of the City of Copenhagen's Bicycle Office - "I Bike CPH" - features a bicycle in the 'positive' direction. The logo for The Green Wave in Copenhagen has the bicycle user in "metaphorical direction neutrality" - could be heading towards us or away from us. I've always percieved this as the bicycle heading towards me, come to think of it. While the standard for Danish signage is right to left, there are variations. Wayfinding for indicating routes on the national cycling network. On the bicycle seat belts on the train to Malmö, the bike heads right.

At bottom right is a vintage sign I cycle past each day, complete with chainguard, fenders and light. Nice. The Danish State Railways tend to use the standard symbol but they are happy to have the bicycle pointing to the right on variations of their signage.

Above are all the traffic signs in Denmark relating to cycling. At bottom left is the signage for bi-directional cycle tracks, which you don't see often for obvious design reasons. But it's there like a retro memory, like the man at bottom right sitting upright with a splendid hat - old Danish signage that we miss so very much. All in all, the pictograms are standardised to feature bicycles heading left.

The traffic engineer logic is that pointing a bicycle to the left indicates potential collision and serves, in their minds at least, to add a safety element to the road signage. Generally, there is a tendency to have the bicycle heading to the right if the signage indicates access or bicycle-friendly facilities, but this is not carved in stone, apparently.
Cykelgade Signage - Fietsstraat
"Bicycle Street - Cars are guests"

We chose, however, to aim the bicycle left to right in our proposal for signage for Bicycle Streets in Denmark. And, even more importantly, we were tired of all the boy bikes in all the pictograms we see around the world, so we made it a proper sit up and beg design with a ladies frame. We like the idea of the Dutch version of their Fietsstraat signs, featuring a cyclist heading towards you, in front of a car. The design, however, is clumsy and it looks hand-drawn. We developed the above proposal based on existing Danish signage. Interestingly, the Dutch signage isn't even official signage, but the Dutch put them up anyway and now people think they are. That's cool.

Farther afield, let's have a look through the Copenhagenize archives to see what's up in the bicycle pictogram world.

Looking from left to right, above, the bicycle symbols are right to left in Zurich, Rome, Ljubljana and Mexico City and then it points to the right in Ferrara. In Vienna, at far right, it's right to left but the crossing signal - one of the funkiest in the world - features a bicycle with casual-leaning cyclist looking right at us. Which sends positive connotations.

In Berlin we spotted what we assume is a vintage design, at left, featuring a chap wearing a suit and riding a normal bicycle. Citizen Cycling indeed. On street and on the parking sign, the bicycles are right to left.

Stockholm can't seem to figure out which way to go.

Nor can Trondheim. Even in Amsterdam they have some variations and varying directions.

In Barcelona, the signage is usually right to left, but left to right on the trains. Suggesting access - supported by the word "access" in three languages, just to be sure you get it.

The Finns work with the right to left concept, as does Antwerp - although they switch it around on the green sign. In Budapest, activists made their own pictogram and spraypainted it on streets all over the city. Great idea, although might have been symbolic to reverse the pictogram.

In Melbourne and on official signage in Riga (is that the world's shortest stretch of bicycle infrastructure?) it is right to left. The bike share in Riga, however is left to right, as is the sign on the door to the train station. The biggest warning on that sign tells you to watch out for the grates if you're wearing high heels. In Tokyo, right to left.

Brazil is a bit confused. At left is a somewhat standard pictogram in Sao Paulo showing the route for the Ciclofaixa each Sunday. The yellow symbol was made by activists - featuring an upright bike heading in the positive direction. On the second-last photo, the sign stating that Volkswagon sponsored the bike lane through a park has the bicycles heading left to right. And yes, we love that irony. The middle photo is from Rio de Janeiro with a rare example of a pictogram straight on. And the pictogram at the right is a newer version that I've seen in use in the city. Nice design, too.

It's a signage free for all in Canada, with different variations across the land. In the US - the only country to put plastic hats on their pictogram people, there is a general standard and it sends cyclists back out into traffic. In New York, this pathway has reversed them in order to show wayfinding.

The French are sending the bicycle backwards, then forwards to a progressive future and then back again. It's all very confusing, although their national standard is the white bike on green.

While some countries still need a national standard and there is an ocean of variations, there are still some people who get it hopelessly wrong. We spotted this, at left, in London in June 2014. It's hilarious. It's a Jackson Pollack interpretation of the British pictogram. At right, even the Copenhagen Metro can screw up. Lovely that it is a step-through frame, but seriously... how many things can you find wrong with that pictogram?

So, after all that, here's a crazy Copenhagenize idea.

Let's get all subliminal. Let's flip our bicycle pictograms on the streets and signage to send a sub-conscious message to all those who 'read' them. It's an inexpensive solution to influence perception of cycling. Think about it when planning your logo.

If, as we mentioned above, ‘since a picture is “read” from left to right, pictorial movement toward the right is perceived as being easier, requiring less effort’, THAT should be the general message on all bicycle pictograms. Send the bicycle from left to right - not only so we can see the damned chainguard - but to broadcast the symbolism of a progressive future.

22 April 2014

The New Question for 21st Century Cities

The New Question for Cities
It's all so simple if we want it to be. For almost a century we have been asking the same question in our cities.

"How many cars can we move down a street?"

It's time to change the question.

If you ask "How many PEOPLE can we move down a street?", the answer becomes much more modern and visionary. And simple. Oh, and cheaper.

When I travel with my Bicycle Urbanism by Design keynote, I often step on the toes of traffic engineers all around the world. Not all of them, however. I am always approached by engineers who are grateful that someone is questioning the unchanged nature of traffic engineering and the unmerited emphasis placed on it. I find it brilliant that individual traffic engineers in six different nations have all said the same thing to me: "We're problem solvers. But we're only ever asked to solve the same problem."

This graphic is inspired by the wonderful conversations I've had around the world about my keynote. How many people we can move down the street is the New Question for liveability and transport in The Life-Sized City.

With urbanisation on the rapid rise, we need to think big. Think modern. We need to travel Back to the Future for the solutions that will serve our growing populations best. Cycle tracks. Trams. Wider sidewalks. It's all right there for the taking if we dare to take it.

24 December 2013

Copenhagen Bicycle Rush Hour in Lego

Citizen Cyclists 001
If we lived in Toy-penhagen, this is what this rush hour would look like. Citizen Cyclists riding through the city.
Citizen Cyclists 006
Man in a suit complete with mobile. Supermum with her kid and her coffee. Flowers decorating a bike.
Citizen Cyclists 012
The elderly (with baguettes), a doctor, you name it.
Citizen Cyclists 010
Businessman with briefcase. 50% + female ridership. Etc.
Citizen Cyclists 004
One-handed riding. Yep... it's all there. All we need is for LEGO to make stilettos and mini-skirts if we really want to make a true representation of Copenhageners on their bicycles, but hey.
Citizen Cyclists 007

Vélomonde Vintage Bicycle Posters: Peugot
I have also reproduced one of my favourite bicycle posters in Lego. Based on the 1922 poster from Peugeot. Bicycles on top of the world.

Felix and I have also played around with Lego as urban infill, if you fancy a look.

If you haven't spotted the Copenhagenize Design Company christmas card on Twitter or our Facebook page, here it is.

Have a lovely holiday season and a wonderful new year.

16 October 2013

The Copenhagenize Guide to Liveable Cities

Copenhagenize Guide to Liveable Cities
It's simple if you want it to be.

Copenhagenize Design Co.

A Short History of Traffic Engineering Copenhagenize Traffic Planning Guide The Copenhagenize Bicycle Planning Guide Don't Be a Square Motorists Dismount

03 February 2013

Don't Be a Square, Kids

Don't Be a Square

09 September 2011

Bicycle Posters on Market Street

Ian Huebert_Fixie_MrktPoster
Thanks to our reader, Aaron, who sent us links to these posters that currently feature on Market Street in San Francisco. Light-hearted, whimsical, nice.
Ian Huebert_Market_MrktPoster

Ian Huebert_Fog_MrktPoster

29 August 2011

Bizarre Bicycle Posters

Vintage Bicycle Posters: Columbia Bicycle
There are hundreds of fantastic bicycle posters from a long history of bicycle adverts out there. So many of them are brilliant. There are, however, some that are just plain weird. Copenhagenize offers you two of the weirdest we have come across.

Above, a poster for Columbia Bicycles from the kinky hand of one C.M. Coolidge in 1895

Vintage Bicycle Posters: La Verité
And here we have more bicycle kinkyness. An artist signing his name as Decam whipped together this poster in 1897 for Caténol Bicycles. We have absolutely no idea what it's about but perhaps we have been given an insight into the sexual life of the artist.

One of our readers - "Kordite" - found this description of the last poster on an auction website:
"Utilizing the allegorical imagery frequently associated with the French proverb "La Verité sort du puits" (The Truth comes out of a well), in which a nude female representing Truth is seen leaping forth from a well, here we are presented with an advertisement for a bicycle chain. Rather than the usual rope-pulley system, a bike-chain like mechanism is depicted behind her as she makes a superstitious hand gesture against bad luck. Apparently, if you use this brand of bicycle chain, you will be protected from all harm -- no lie. "

If you're interested, the starting bid is $1300 at

26 May 2011

Pleasing Everyone At Once

Here's a poster promoting cycling in New York for My friend Kelly sent it to me and I think I'll let him do all the talking:

Thought you might like this poster - if only for the socio-political landmine it tiptoes through.

We have:

- bikes prominently featured (Ride a bike message: check)
- the older gent, middle-age woman, younger woman (Target age groups: check)
- race/gender diversity (Diversity advocates: check)
- gent with his helmet (Helmet advocates: check)
- ladies not wearing helmets (anti-helmet advocates: check)
- all walking their bikes on sidewalks (ride safely advocates: check; bonus points for appeasing both helmet and anti-helmet camp at the same time)
- speed of bike transport highlighted (urban transportation advocates: check)
- outer borough (Brooklyn) featured (hipsters: check)

The only thing missing is someone actually riding a bike. But I suppose that's to be inferred.

It's for Bike Month NYC, but if you're planning on riding on June 1st and beyond, remember to sign up for Bike Century.

06 May 2011

Bikes on Top of the World

As you may have noticed, we were playing around with some Lego at Copenhagenize Consulting. For a poster for a bicycle event. There are more shots over at Cycle Chic. I thought the above one was quite cool. No, it wasn't inspired by bike lifts at bike rides. It was inspired by one of my favourite vintage bicycle posters:

Vintage Bicycle Posters: Peugot
Produced in 1922 for Peugeot bicycles.

Vélo-monde, baby.

10 March 2011

In case of accident...

Our reader, Marek from Poland, sent us this mock-up of a poster he found. A prototype campaign for highlighting the danger of driving and texting/doing stuff. The text reads:

"In case of accident, she'll leave a beautiful corpse."

The messaging is cool, but it's still in line with most of the campaigns we see about driving recklessly. The guilt focus is, more often than not, on the driver and/or car occupants. It would be more effective if we started to place focus instead on the people the car could kill. Other drivers, pedestrians, cyclists.

"Probably the prettiest killing machine in the world"... Or something along those lines?

03 February 2011

Drive Nice

After the last post about the culture of fear crap we have to put up with here in Copenhagen it was a pleasure to recieve a link to these posters from Tacoma, Washington and thanks to Nicholas for the heads up.

This campaign is an instant collectors item simply because it's so rare. Seriously. The number of safety/awareness/behavourial campaigns out there that speak to motorists like this is extremely low. And we're talking on a global scale. So it is refreshing and hopeful to see something like this.

With that said, I must admit that I favour a more direct messaging that spells it out in no uncertain terms that cars are dangerous and the cause of most of our urban problems. This Tacoma campaign is positive and its use of humour is commendable but it isn't really geared at getting people to change transport modes. By grabbing the bull by the cajones and yanking hard we will be able to affect behaviour more effectively and, in the process, speed the transformation to more liveable cities by branding car traffic in cities more negatively.

For the record, my favourite rational campaign is the No Ridiculous Car Trips one out of Malmö, Sweden. Let's not forget the always brilliant Hungarians. So far. I'm aching for new favourites.

The posters were designed by the Rusty George Creative agency for The City of Tacoma, Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department and Washington State Department of Health. Rusty George Creative also created the branding and logo for a bicycle-friendly pub called The Hub, in Tacoma, using a famous French bicycle poster as inspiration:

The Drive Nice, Tacoma posters were spotted on the Tacoma Downtown website, run by the BIA.

15 December 2010

Selling Snow to the Inuit?

København Amsterdam Cimber Sterling
I saw this advert in a national paper last week. Cimber Sterling is a low-cost Danish airline and they're advertising cheap flights to Amsterdam. One-way tickets for €53 / $70. But that's not the point of this post. Here at Copenhagenize we go weak at the knees whenever we see positive bicycle-related advertising. In fact, Denmark used to rule supreme in this genre. Here are three tourism posters from the late 1940's:

Copenhagen - Gay Spot of Europe Denmark - Country of Smiles and Peace Denmark - The Country for your Holiday
Not to mention the modern classics produced by Danish illustrator Mads Berg.

At first glance you'd think the Cimber Sterling ad was selling snow to the Inuit. "Hey, bicycle nation #2! Come and visit bicycle nation #1!"

However, things have changed. This advert is very poignant here in 2010. Perhaps even more than the admen working for Cimber Sterling know.

It offers asylum, if even for a weekend, from The Culture of Fear - Danish Branch. It offers you the chance to escape the intolerably unscientific safety-nannying of the communication consultants at the Danish Road Safety Council and Danish Cyclists' Federation, not to mention the negative branding of cycling in this country, by travelling to Amsterdam. Where it is still legal to double on a bicycle.

Come to Amsterdam. To freedom. Climb to the mountaintop. Look down the other side. Visit Amsterdam. Visit bicycle freedom.