Friday, August 14, 2009
Informational Signs in Holland and Germany
While there is a library of international informational signs, designed as symbols understood across geographic and cultural boundaries, there's another class of signs somewhat modeled on these that betray curious local variations. Here are a few I was drawn to during our summer trip to Europe.
First, the red, white and black signs from the beach in Domburg, Holland, where there is a lot of information: a high-flying kite (or is it a parasail? weighed down with shoes? – no, hands) poised to visually lift a dog. His blue leash is hand-painted in as an after-thought: whoops! (wasn't that the point? or does the sign mean that dogs run free from 10.00 - 19.00, and an irate sunbather is suggesting "restrain them, please!") Then a couple of Strekdam swimmers, keeping their distance from the dam and rolled cigarette fence. Synchronized drowning, anyone? Because of the juxtaposition of the two signs, my first impulse is to think that the dog is going to parasail in to rescue the swimmers.
In the Dutch city Zierikzee, in the province of Zeeland, I couldn't help but notice the lolli-pup sign, with its guilty looking kangaroo-shaped dog, just trying to do his business. I especially like his averted gaze, Rudolph nose, poised ear and uplifted tail – details betraying a lot of dog personality. Compare him with the frisky pup on the green bin for dog waste nearby. No self-consciousness there – instead a bit of slobbery Yumm! energy.
At the Monasterium de Wijngaard in Brugges, Belgium, a monastery for Benedictine women, we found an oasis of calm, with tall trees and field flowers, in the center of the city. But "sssst" – like a deflating balloon, this little sign with narrow-shouldered black coin mask face and gentle hand indicates the silence requirement, without the "h" sound I am used to.
Time for a hike in the woods. I've always liked this blue sign near my in-laws' house, at the entrance to the forest. I've never seen a mom in a business coat, though, walking there with her dressy daughter, as if entering the Church of the Woods. What I do like very much: the fact that these are more nuanced human forms, rather than the tube people on so many informational signs.
But what's up with the man (in Holland) taking a reluctant little girlchild into the forest? Am I wrong in sensing resistance in her stance? It's that hat and business suit that ominously suggest "abductor" to me. Would this sign look so disturbing in the city? She's been kidnapped by a man from the 40s.
Here is my favorite woods walk sign, from the forest near Westen. Time for the sexism analysis. How come he carries the back pack and walking stick, wearing wool hiking hat, thick pants and sensible shoes? She's got the bullet bra, flared skirt and flashing locks, keeping pace with his vigorous stride, arms tied behind her back.