Caution: sign ahead

Communicating through pictures —  and, more specifically, signs — can be a powerful way to send a message.

My daughter commented the other day that on our rural street there are not many signs. No bent arrows indicating sharp curves ahead. No speed limit indicators. Nothing telling you to “keep right” or “yield.” There is, however, a sign with a picture of a cow. Below it is another sign that reads “loose gravel.”

Loose gravel and cows ahead

Clearly there could be cows ahead, and the road is covered with loose gravel instead of smooth pavement. I live on this road and it makes for interesting travel (and running), but I digress.

I’ve started to notice these types of signs popping up in more locations. Using just color and a simple black silhouette picture, the signs communicate a message. They also tell a story.

In my commute from country to city, two signs I pass tell the story of a journey. There is this:

Tractor warning

And then this, about 35 miles away:

Fore!

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Communicating well

Remembering some old rules of writing that still apply.

“But with so many words having many meanings communication can be a bit precarious.” Someone left that comment on the Two Roads Communications Facebook page. It’s true. Communication is precarious.

To communicate well is not easy. Look around: There is a lot of lousy communication. To communicate well, one must transfer an idea clearly from a thought into words (or pictures or other forms of art) that others understand. That can be tricky, because we all interpret things differently.

My husband and I have both worked in the communications field. We joke that we communicate well with everyone but each other. Emotion has a lot to do with communication among loved ones. But in business, taking excessive emotion and subjectivity out of communication can improve its clarity. Professional communications therefore strive to create messages that can be clearly understood by all.

Writing should be provocative, creative and concise. It can be those things and still be simple. Be understood clearly. Be done well.

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