One of the most boring things to me is traveling by subway or bus. I suffer from motion sickness, so it’s impossible for me to read or fix my eyes on something while moving. To pass the time, I create entertainment with my surroundings. My favorite? Making fun of public signs.
It works like this: stare closely at a sign until you can eliminate its meaning. (You know when you say a word over and over again and suddenly it becomes nonsense? It’s the same idea!)
I’ve collected a few pictures to show you the process in action. Below is a photo of a subway sign that indicates a priority seat – “reservado” in Spanish. The normal sign has icons to represent the handicapped, elderly, women with babies, and pregnant women.
However, when you are trapped in boredom, the icon is no longer an old man with his cane, but a brave man holding a dead stiff serpent, or a skater needing a break! Also, the woman carrying a small cannon – she surely deserves a seat. And if the pregnant lady is way too normal for you, take a look at the next one.
It appears alien ladies take the bus quite often, seeing as they have their own official, reserved seat.
There’s lots with which to exercise your imagination in subway stations. In Mexico City, Lance Wyman designed the iconography for the first three subway lines in the city. Below is an icon that identifies each station (on the left) and a photo of something representative of that place (on the right). For example, the cricket is the icon for Chapultepec, the city’s largest park, which features a large cricket sculpture.
While everything above remains normal, several other icons have been prone to reinterpretation. Here is the original flower icon from the Tacuba station:
And here an actual intervention, where someone cleverly reimagined the original flowers as Piranha Plants from Super Mario Bros:
Emergency instructions for elevators can also inspire creative bursts. In the sign below, the top portion advises riders to follow the instructions of trained staff, while the bottom asks that you cover your mouth with a cloth.
However, when I look at it, I see a glowing wizard trying to take charge, and an icon commanding you to lick your hand!
Finally… take a look at this wonder.
This sign is meant to communicate how to insert a ticket when entering the station with your bike. However, it’s much better to imagine that it’s advising you to slap unexpected robots with a blade while hiding behind a futuristic shield. Right!?
Public pictography is designed for such a wide and diverse range of people, that it’s inevitable they will be perceived in various ways. And frankly, that’s the magic behind it! Next time you find yourself on a trip, embrace the unexpected entertainment of pictography interpretation – I promise you’ll never travel bored again!