Running Man Origins

Running Man Origins

Here in the United States we like to do things a little bit differently. We like to drive Hummers that get 7 miles per gallon, stick with the US customary system, and most importantly, we use exit signs that proudly display the word "EXIT" to indicate the nearest point of egress. The majority of the world uses the "running man" pictogram as a universal symbol for "this way out."

Traditional exit signs are effective, but in countries where multiple languages are spoken, it is advantageous to have a sign with an easy to understand picture and no text. This ensures that people will be able to efficiently evacuate amidst the confusion of an emergency. The "running man" was developed in the late 70s by Japanese designer Yukio Ota and adopted for international use in 1985. The pictogram that would soon be seen around the globe was conceived from a contest held by the Japanese fire safety commission. After the pictogram had been tweaked 58 times, with differently angled legs to indicate a "slow run," the design was finalized.

Yukio Ota

Although the concept of the North American exit signs is pretty straightforward, there are some who think the international fixture should be adopted. The argument against the traditional US exit sign is twofold: it is not understood by those who are not English speakers and most frequently comes in red. In most cases the color red indicates danger, alert, stop, etc and can confuse a mass of panicked people. Green, on the other hand, is a color associated with "go" and safety, two things that are desirable when surrounded by flames.

Should the US switch to the "running man?" It's a battle that's been brewing for about 25 years with no clear answer. Maybe when we switch over to the metric system we'll see the light (pun intended). Until then, browse our selection of exit signs!

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