Archive for the ‘Pictograms’ Category

Dogs are not allowed…

April 30, 2015

Dogs are not allowed to run at large or defecate on private property

Toronto doesn’t have a standard anti- dog poop sign. There’s a wide range of approaches, as any Toronto dog owner will know.

This one is my favourite and it happens to be bolted to the building in which I live. It’s the expression on the dog’s face that makes it stand out for me. The dog looks mischievous, as if aware that it’s done something naughty.

I wonder: Does this slightly whimsical approach lead to dog owners being more compliant?


Walking Figure

October 27, 2013

Walking Figure

One of the things I like about this pictogram sign is its artful placement on a hoarding at a condo site. A walking figure joins a flock of birds.

How would you interpret the juxtaposition? As a call to be closer to nature? As an encouragement to be free as a bird? The combined pictogram-photo awaits your exegesis.


May 2, 2012


I appreciate smoke-free environments, but the sight of prohibitions everywhere gets me down. The signs are usually so stern and humourless that it’s no wonder people try to lighten the mood with a little whimsy.

Last year I featured a no smoking sign that someone had transformed into a ban on pie. Here’s one that someone has turned into an edict against trains.

Given that the TTC openly admits to the possibility of electrocuting you, I wonder what punishment they’ve cooked up for renegade smokers.

Or for that matter, for people who alter their signs.

Adore Pedestrians

March 7, 2012

Adore Pedestrians

I love instructions for simple activities like crossing the street. They convey an image of the world as a helpful place. They say: no matter how small your concern, there’s guidance if you look for it.

The signs at Toronto crosswalks are often hard to read, unfortunately. They’re frequently encrusted with grime or barnacled with stickers or messed up in one way or another.

In this case, there’s a positive message that shines through, a command to “adore pedestrians”. And what pedestrian doesn’t need a little love while walking beneath the Gardiner Expressway?

Analog Cafe

April 27, 2011

Analog Cafe

You’ll find this sign in the window of one of my favourite coffee shops, Sublime Cafe in Kensington Market. I’ve been many times, but I only noticed the sign on my last visit. Maybe I overlooked it before.

The oddly shaped piece of wood, with its circular perforations, has a makeshift appeal and the no laptop pictogram is a nice gesture of solidarity with those who prefer the way cafes used to be.

Now that everyone is online almost all the time, do we need escape hatches from our digital lives? Are wifi-free zones the new sanctuaries?

Look Happy

February 21, 2011

Look Happy

I noticed this sign on my lunch break last week and returned the following day to snap a picture. Looking happy is a challenge in the middle of a Toronto February… but on a long weekend it’s a little bit easier.

Imagine a city with street signs for moods and mental states, traffic lights for our daily interactions. Would we live together more harmoniously?

Now that retailers have whisked away their Valentine’s Day gift items, it’s good to think about how we truly feel about one another. And on that note, I’ll share a revealing fact with you: the most viewed post on Toronto Type is this one.

No Pie

January 17, 2011

No Pie

I spotted this sign on a TTC platform this weekend. A few strokes of a magic marker and a cigarette was transformed: “No Pie” became TTC by-law number one.

I wonder if the clever person who amended this was feeling oppressed by negative New Year’s resolutions? Doesn’t “No Pie” capture that January feeling perfectly?

I say we lift the ban: more pie for everyone! Let’s eat it boldly and defiantly! Let’s devour it on TTC platforms all over the city!


October 7, 2010


This sign warns of an unpredictable gate that is “able to be moved without prior warning.” If you don’t pay enough attention, it might actually kill you.

The pictogram manages to be grisly and funny at the same time. I don’t get it though: if the arrow represents the force of the gate, what’s that black bar that the figure is being squashed against?

Fortunately, I managed to take this picture and lived to tell the tale.

No Smoking ANYWHERE…

September 23, 2010


I spotted this sign in front of a church’s side door, on a street that’s very popular with smokers. I guess the principle of Christian charity isn’t extended to them.

I’ve always been fond of the cigarette pictogram in No Smoking signs. The smoke is usually indicated by two thick, curvy black lines. (Here they’re surprisingly elegant.) There’s typically a sensuality in those marks – as if the sign maker feels compelled to acknowledge the pleasure of smoking, even while prohibiting it.

Danger Trespassers May Be Electrocuted

August 4, 2010

Danger Trespassers May Be Electrocuted

This sign is brought to you by the friendly folks at the TTC. It’s blunt and unapologetic and there’s a little note of uncertainty: you “may” be electrocuted.

I’m fascinated by the symbol, that jagged red mark. Strangely enough, it makes me think less of sudden death than of love, the way it zaps you unexpectedly, leaving you electrified.

I propose that next Valentine’s Day we replace the all-too-familiar red heart with a red thunderbolt.