The History of Signs

this history of signs

When Were Signs Invented and How Have Signs Evolved?

czech warning signs 1935Signs have been around for just about as long as human civilization has existed. The ancient Egyptians used them, as did the Romans. Roman signs were used to mark milestones in travel or give directions to the biggest cities in the Empire. The signs were often stone columns. In Middle Ages era England, all brewers had to have signs in front of their breweries or lose their right to sell it. As time passed, signs popped up everywhere for advertising and safety purposes.

Industrialization and the invention of automobiles created the impetus for widespread safety sign creation. Prior signs had usually just been made from wood or stone, with no contrast or bright colors. As with most objects, it took a while to get to the perfected incarnations you see today. To the right you can see some warning signs from the year 1935 in what is now known as the Czech Republic. The blue coloring and little white pictures are not really too effective.

There was actually a convention in Vienna in 1968 to standardize important signs throughout the world. Nowadays, these common shapes and colors are the most prevalent and effective warning signs around:

warning sign shape colors

How Are Signs Made?

We could explain how signs are made, but wouldn’t it be more fun to watch signs being made instead? The Science Channel is here to help us all with their fantastic “How It’s Made” series. This segment specifically shows how signs are made (and drops a little sign history for fair measure)!

Why Do We Need Signs?

If we didn’t have signs, people would be recoiling in horror daily at all the accidents that would occur in a warehouse, much like Joaquin Phoenix’s reaction to seeing aliens in the movie “Signs”:

shocking warning signs

Signs help keep order in a warehouse, making sure things run smoothly and efficiently. They are also important for safety. Imagine not knowing where to be cautious of falling objects or where forklifts may speed past a corner you can’t see around. It would be chaos!