1. Metaphor -- Tar Heel logo. This is a little bit of a different take on the classic Tar Heel logo. Typically it is an image of a Carolina blue footprint with a black tar print on the heel. Despite the fact that this logo is slightly different colored with a pointy tar print, it is still instantly recognizable as the UNC Tar Heels logo. So what makes this a good metaphor for a Tar Heel? Obviously, the logo incorporates tar on the heel of a footprint. Because it is not a photographic portrayal of a Tar Heel, the image can be presented in school colors as well, making it an even better portrayal of the school. Anyone familiar with collegiate athletics should instantly recognize this logo in any form it may take.
2. Signage -- Unicycle Lane. This unicycle lane in Portland presents a whimsical bit of signage. Most everyone has seen bicycle lanes marked with an icon of a bike and its rider, but this sign makes it safe for circus performers to travel down the road. Despite the fact that the sign is just a few white lines painted on the road, the image is immediately recognizable as a unicyclist juggling. It is a good example of signage because even if you've never seen a juggling unicyclist going down the road, you will have no problem knowing that's what this sign represents.
3. Culturally laden signage -- Martini sign. The Martini is the premier American cocktail. It is a permanent fixture of American life, of the American imagination, of America's image in the rest of the world. Invented in the United States in the 1870s, the Martini has gone through many incarnations from the original version with gin, vermouth and an olive to the modern, flavored versions like chocolate and apple. The image of the triangular Martini glass with an olive has remained a significant sign in America. Throughout the country, the neon image can be seen outside of establishments where you can pick up a stiff drink and enjoy the night life. James Bond and others have helped make the Martini an international hit, but it remains biggest here at home. Just seeing the neon Martini glass is enough to bring to mind American sophisticates in tuxedos trading witty barbs..."I must get out of these wet clothes and into a dry Martini."
Here are a few examples of a nonverbal signs that don't work:
4. These three logos were all used by professional football teams. By looking at them, though, you'd have know way to know they had anything to do with sports much less which team they belonged to. The first image seems to be some kind of bleeding Rorschach Inkblot Test. The second logo appears to be a hammer, possibly the kind of wood hammer carpenters use. And the third logo is apparently Pink Floyd cover art. In actuality, the first logo was for the Albany Firebirds of the Arena Football League. The second logo was for the Berlin Thunder of the World League. And the third logo was for our own Raleigh-Durham Skyhawks of the World League of American Football. The lesson here is that logos must actually be recognizable and represent what they intend to represent. For more horrible logos, check out this site.