Subtitles section Play video Print subtitles You've probably all seen an exit sign before and have a pretty good idea of what one looks like, but how an exit sign looks differs depending on where you live. However, there is one design that most designers agree is the best and most effective. That's the ISO graphic symbol for emergency exits, designed by Japanese graphic designer Yukio Ota. Well, I should say, most of us outside of the US agree that it's the best. If you live in the US, or maybe elsewhere, you may be skeptical, but I'm here to try to convince you otherwise. In the late 1970s, a Japanese fire safety association held a contest for a new national exit sign design. Entries underwent extensive user testing to evaluate their effectiveness in smokey environments. The winner, among over 3,000 entries, was Yukio Ota's design. Ota's primary design philosophy is to create universal symbols that transcend language barriers. That vision, at least for this particular design, was realized in 1985 when ISO, the International Organization for Standardization, adopted the Japanese exit sign as a part of their standards for safety signs. ISO was founded in 1947 to unify standards across nations and better facilitate international trade. There are ISO standards for just about everything, from the classifications of shipping containers to standards for brewing tea. Ota's design is now used all over the world. Certain regions sometimes use a variation it, but essentially, the green and white running figure can be found everywhere from China to Czech Republic to France and to Canada. So, why is this a good design? Well, first, it's doesn't require you to know the language the sign happens to be in. Our world is becoming increasingly globalized. I live in a city with a pretty large immigrant population who aren't all fluent in English. But maybe you think, "If someone is moving to a new country, they should learn basic words like 'exit".” Okay, yes, probably. But what about tourists, young children, and people with reading-related disabilities? Overall, a pictogram-based sign is just more accessible. But why is this particular design better than other pictogram based signs? Well, because it's a simple design, but it communicates a lot. The figure appears to be running out of a doorway, but running steadily and calmly as opposed to sprinting and rushing. Because, in an emergency, you want people to move swiftly, but without panicking. According to Ota, they finessed the design back and forth 58 times before settling on the final design. As designers, we're often accused of squabbling over seemingly tiny details. Yeah, I'll admit, some of us are probably a little crazy. But it's mostly because these details matter. It's our job is to communicate design intent to the end user in the most simple and direct way. And, in this particular context of developing an international design for emergency situations, no small detail should be overlooked. Lastly, there is the debate about color. A key aspect of good design is providing users with consistent expectations. Most exit signs in the US and Canada are red. However, red is usually used to represent concepts like "Danger", "Stop", and "Do Not Enter". So, it's kind of inconsistent to also use red to represent "Go that way; it's safe". I live in Canada where traditional exit signs are the red EXIT or SORTIE signs. But, in 2010, the National Building Code finally adopted the ISO exit design. It is now mandatory in new buildings or buildings undergoing extensive renovation. So, why doesn't the US adopt the ISO sign? Well, it's hard to say. Maybe it's because the US is a lot more monolingual than countries in Europe and Asia. And maybe that's why Canada eventually caught on, since we have two official languages. I don't really know. If you live in the US, leave a comment. And maybe you live in a place where the exit sign looks different than any of the one I've shown. I'd love to see them; let me know in the comments below. Speaking of Canada and fire emergencies, did you know the Canadian government deliberately burned down a village in 1958? To learn more about that, why don't we head over to Tom Scott's channel... Hi! ... where he dies. I'm fine. I'm fine. Slippy down there.