Donald J. Patterson

Anxiety and Activism in Transgender Bathroom Signs

AIGA icons

The national conversation about transgender individuals that peaked for a time toward the end of Obama’s presidency caused a number of institutions to change their bathroom signage. I found this interesting since this was the dominant exposure and focal point that most people had with the issues.  Human-computer interaction spends a lot of time thinking about icons, visual layouts and representations so I was predisposed to notice.  The resulting signage varied so much that I spent some time collecting signs and thinking about what they meant. After observing a lot of different ways of identifying bathrooms I saw a lot of different political and practical responses to transgender accommodation. This article is the result of that analysis.

The icons that we use to describe public space reflect our continual conversation about what is important to us. They provide insight into how we think about issues and where our anxieties and aspirations lie. As much as they are aesthetic choices they also support and reinforce our policies. Trying to make good visual choices can also cause us to reflect and will hopefully spur us on to developing policies that are good for as many as possible. (Full article on Medium)

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