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« 190. Everything is OK. | Main | 188. Benny Cooperman Covers. »
Wednesday
Aug202008

189. Revised ADA Symbol.

Perhaps one of the most simple and elegant demonstrations of good design vs. bad: take a look at the redesigned Americans with Disabilities Act symbol by Brendan Murphy. You couldn’t ask for a more powerful statement on the importance of design, and it comes from 1994. So 14 years later and all I see is the old pathetic-looking ‘handicap’ logo, which is a real shame. The revised mark gives dignity and energy to this population, and the design obviously shows respect to its audience. Mass implementation should have followed, as the old mark is bordering on offensive, but obviously that has not been the case. (I believe Brendan Murphy may be the Brendan Murphy from Lipponcott fame, but I am not sure. And the document linked to below appears to have been in collaboration with the SEGD, the Society for Environmental Graphic Design.)

The design is good. The negative space alludes to the chair, which is really nice. I do have a little issue with the areas where the wheels end and the person begins – they don’t quite match the other angles and shapes – but it’s a huge step forward. The rationale included in the pdf, however, is spectacular. This proves that not only is the design important, but also how it is presented.

So we have a good design. A great rationale. But very sporadic implementation; even government documents feature the old identity system. So this may be an example of how a designer may need to partner up with agencies or non-profits or other entities in order for the design to be successful. Even when a design is clearly superior, we may need to assemble a coalition of supporters to change the status quo. 

Anyone have any more information on this?

 

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    189. Revised ADA Symbol. - Graphicology Blog - Graphicology
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    189. Revised ADA Symbol. - Graphicology Blog - Graphicology

Reader Comments (8)

I have never seen the "after" logo in the 14 years that it's apparently been in the wild. I would say that to re-design a universal symbol means nothing if it isn't deployed universally. The symbol for radioactivity was recent redesigned, and it was talked about in all the news media; this I never heard of.

I know that Mr. Murphy of Lippincott often spells his name with an accent over the a: Brendán. At least according to his 2006 business card. So it could be him, or could be someone else, can't help you there.
September 14, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterPrescott Perez-Fox
Hello there, and first of all congrats on a great blog!

On my first trip to US in October 2007 I visited Williams College, MA, where I first spotted this sign and I stood there astonished because I immediately loved it for the same reasons you pointed out - http://img219.imageshack.us/img219/2102/181020070262pu0.jpg - this version is a derivative of the one you are pointing out but still looking amazingly good.

I hope they start slowly implementing the same in Europe. Greetings from Montenegro, Milos
November 3, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterMilos Milosevic
Yes - thanks for sending a link to this other image. It's amazing how a small design change can transform the message from powerlessness to empowerment. I hope they implement it over here in the states more rapidly too.

Thank you Milos from Montenegro!
November 3, 2008 | Registered Commenterjj
Thanks for your comments. Not sure about fame…but I do indeed work at Lippincott…and sometimes add a fada to the a in brendan.
November 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBrendan Murphy
This symbol was most likely derived from Kevin Dresser's pictogram design for the Museum of Modern Art in 2002. Here is a story in Metropolis Magazine about the designs,
http://www.metropolismag.com/story/20050516/whos-the-new-guy

Kevin Dresser (www.DresserJohnson.com) has designed pictograms for such institutions as Radio City Music Hall, The Museum of Modern Art, The Empire State Building, The National Newspaper, Johnson & Johnson and Columbia University.
January 20, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGraphic Design Fan
I designed this symbol in 1994 while a graduate student at the University of Cincinnati. I had been searching for a thesis subject and had come across an article by Paul Arthur calling for the redesign of the “handicap” symbol. My research was funded through a grant from the SEGD (Society for Environmental Graphic Design).

When I looked into the meaning of the word “handicapped” (literally meaning cap in hand) I found it very disturbing. My dad grew up in Dublin around the corner from Christy Brown (My Left Foot), and his story had always inspired me. He fought to be seen for his artistic and intellectual abilities, and not to be defined by his physical disabilities. I saw this as an opportunity for design to redefine how people look at each other and at the world.

In designing this symbol I tried to be sensitive to both the message and the audience. Both in word and image I sought to move away from the label “Handicapped.” With the new symbol for accessibility, the person is no longer imprisoned by the chair–the chair is merely the vehicle with which he or she gains access.

As an athlete in Dublin, I raced side by side with wheelchair athletes. I sought to capture the spirit and independence of these athletes in the symbol. The activity and movement are suggested with body positioning–the angle of the torso, and the “pushing position” of the arm. The goal is to portray an active, independent person, in sharp contrast to the former symbol which has been described as dependent, rigid and helpless.

San Antonio was the first American city to formally adopt the symbol, and it has since been used in sign programs by many leading corporations including Walmart, REI, and MOMA.
January 21, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBrendan Murphy
I designed this symbol in 1994 while a graduate student at the University of Cincinnati. I had been searching for a thesis subject and had come across an article by Paul Arthur calling for the redesign of the “handicap” symbol. My research was funded through a grant from the SEGD (Society for Environmental Graphic Design).

When I looked into the meaning of the word “handicapped” (literally meaning cap in hand) I found it very disturbing. My dad grew up in Dublin around the corner from Christy Brown (My Left Foot), and his story had always inspired me. He fought to be seen for his artistic and intellectual abilities, and not to be defined by his physical disabilities. I saw this as an opportunity for design to redefine how people look at each other and at the world.

In designing this symbol I tried to be sensitive to both the message and the audience. Both in word and image I sought to move away from the label “Handicapped.” With the new symbol for accessibility, the person is no longer imprisoned by the chair–the chair is merely the vehicle with which he or she gains access.

As an athlete in Dublin, I raced side by side with wheelchair athletes. I sought to capture the spirit and independence of these athletes in the symbol. The activity and movement are suggested with body positioning–the angle of the torso, and the “pushing position” of the arm. The goal is to portray an active, independent person, in sharp contrast to the former symbol which has been described as dependent, rigid and helpless.

San Antonio was the first American city to formally adopt the symbol, and it has since been used in sign programs by many leading corporations including Walmart, REI, and MOMA.
January 21, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBrendan Murphy
for those who would like to downlaod the symbol
http://accesssymbol.com/
April 6, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBrendan Murphy

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