Organization: Information Canada
Principles for the determination of a federal system of pictographics
The Task Force on Government Information of 1969 reported that the visual communications of the Federal Government lacked cohesion and impact. In 1970, the Government adopted the Federal Identity Program and established the Graphic Design Secretariat in Information Canada to co-ordinate all aspects of federal graphic design with the objective of achieving improved quality, effectiveness, and efficiency in visual communications. Since then, much has been accomplished in developing greater awareness of the federal identity, especially in the Government’s stationery, vehicle markings and signs.
From the outset it was realized that symbols or pictographs for use on signs in and around federal real estate could contribute greatly to this work. But, no one system exists in the world, let alone Canada. Studies revealed that all too often designers overlook basic scientific principles in the development of symbol systems. The Graphic Design Secretariat, in preparing for a January 1975 meeting of the Interdepartmental Working Group on Signs, felt that certain principles which have been stated by recognized authorities on the subject warranted restatement for the benefit of the group’s deliberations.
While the principal task of the group is to develop a system of symbols common to all federal departments and agencies, it is also working on committees studying national and international standardization via the Canada Safety Council, the Canadian Standards Association, the International Standards Organization and provincial and other national governments.
From the study of the case histories, published works and research reports listed herein (see “Reference Bibliography”) some very general statements might be made:
An effective system of pictographs is based on the consistent use of shape, colour, glyph configuration, message form and siting.
Shape and colour are the means of distinguishing the main classes of communication.
The glyph configuration may be an abstract or a pictorial mark. The pictorial mark is recognizably derived from actual identifiable objects. The abstract mark is part of a visual vocabulary in the same way as alphabetical or numerical symbols.
This paper deals primarily with the aspects of shape and colour. The illustrations are comprised of hypothetical and abstract glyphs merely to indicate colour differential.
The physical version of this product is part of the federal identity archive.