Wordless Communication: Picto-San vs. The Dept. of Homeland Security.

Picto-san (ピクトさん) is the little guy getting into all sorts of trouble on warning and caution signs. He’s the guy slipping on the wet floor, bumping his head on the overhand, getting electrocuted by hopping the fence into the power plant. Picto-san can be a very good communicator. Good signs make the relationship very clear between his actions or environment, and the bad things things that happen to him. Even if we don’t know the language, we get what we’re not supposed to do.

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Sometimes, though, Picto-san makers fail to send an unambiguous message. Safe Now has some amusing takes on very familiar-looking disaster preparedness posters. Funny, sure, but the site drives home a very good point: use visuals to illustrate visual- no, visceral- ideas. It’s easier to show a guy getting electrocuted by touching a power line than by avoiding electrocution by not touching one. Disaster preparedness cartoons without context or a clear message only make for fearmongering and hilarious fodder for internet humor.

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The first images are from the Japan Picto-san Society; the second group is from Safe Now, which parodies real Department of Homeland Security cartoons. There are a ton more hilariously-captioned pictures on there; go check it out.