Monday, January 28, 2008

The origins of the biohazard sign

An article in the New York times reveals the modest origins of the biohazard sign. I've always wondered what it was supposed to represent. It bears an uncanny resemblance to the radiation sign, but with claws, which I find suggestive of some insect. But it turns out to be completely abstract, according to the engineer from Dow Chemical who designed it:

"We tested the sample symbols across the country -- the marketing department had survey groups to test different labels for Dow products. There were half a dozen of our original symbols in this survey of 24 different symbols. The rest were recognizable, like the peanut man for Planter's peanuts, the Texaco star, the Shell Oil symbol, the Red Cross and the swastika. They were asked to look at them and then asked to guess at what each one meant. The biohazard symbol got the fewest guesses. Then we went back one week later to the same set of people and the same set of symbols, plus 36 more common ones, and asked them which of these did they remember the best. And they picked out the biohazard symbol."


Anonymous said...

Too bad we all missed the opportunity to design the nanohazard symbol.
I was going to submit a pic of the ACs prophylactics as a nanohazard but apparently I'm too late.
Clearly some of the entries take inspiration from the biohazard symbol.

Anonymous Coward said...

well played sir