Chapter 4

Proceed with Caution: A Semiotic Analysis of Station Signage

Colin Symes


Signage, which is an ubiquitous feature of public space, be it indoors or out doors, is a taken for granted aspect of the linguistic landscape, including mobile environments. Yet, without it, the travelling public would experience disorientation, lack of direction and run the risk of encountering a range of hazards in what are often potentially very dangerous environments. Railway signage thus fulfils important functions in regulating, normalising and administering passenger conduct. Hence, much of it is focused on prescribing good transport behaviour and in admonishing and proscribing its opposite, bad behaviour. From examining the history of signage in transport environments, it is clear that signage has not remained unchanged but has been subject to progressive development since it first appeared on stations and trains. This was especially true during the 1920s and 1930s when London Underground designers were instrumental in simplifying railway signage and transport design in general, and giving it a more modernist appearance and veneer. These traditions were eventually exported to Sydney, where they continue to be deployed and updated. In conjunction with ‘Fixing the trains’ agenda, these processes of upgrading signage have gathered apace.

Total Pages: 70-90 (21)

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