Two different articles inspired me this blog post.

First, I stumbled upon this interesting blog post from Jurgen Appelo about how standards should grow and not be forced to a group/organization/entity.

One interesting quote from Jurgen:
” Standardization is usually not something that needs to be enforced. No worldwide government was necessary to make billions of people around the world to standardize on the 24-hour clock, the Gregorian calendar, the English language, or Right-hand traffic. “

Second inspiration article was this one, about progressive reduction UX technique in software interfaces.

Both ideas (standards and iconography) kind of relate.

When we are building software that will interact with users, we need to analyze the way they want (and need!) to interact with a computer. And we want to make it as obvious as possible.
Also, having a consistent experience all over the app (and maybe aligning with other apps!).
Thus, trying to provide some UI standards. As short as possible. As simple as possible.
K.I.S.S. (Keep it Simple, Stupid).

However, one collateral damage (or a consequence?) of such standardization, is to get too much predictable, always the same, gray, totally boring.
No innovation at all.

Can we have a kind of standard but let software creators be innovative, interesting, where we can get the user kind of excited?
Standards with variations? Interesting innovations?
Avoiding to fall in total standardization pitfalls?

What standard (nothing related to laws or government) is most of the time almost the same, with rare variations?
I thought about ‘toilet signs’ , where we have always the same two forms:

Well, this is a standard that most people around the world will understand.
Even those ladies who don’t wear any skirts.



I saw recently this image on Google:

I kind of agree. Women don’t always wear a cape, and men doesn’t walk that way they look like about to shoot an enemy Western movies style.



I understand a kind of standard is needed here.
If a restaurant shows you two doors with a yellow flag on the first one and a sprig of mint on the second one , you might have some difficulties to select the good one. (I would.).

But, the human brain can still understand standards even if they are not EXACTLY as you normally would expect.

I found on the web a few examples of such ‘Standards with variations’ of toilet signs.
They are creative, innovative in some way, and still quite effective to transmit the message.


First, not all countries are wearing the same women dress and men suits!




Not the traditional pose. We still fully understand.





Creative, artistic. Not fully sure if the woman pose is the best, but still, I can choose the right door if I am looking for a quick pee.



A question of flow

It seems that the way liquid gets out of our body is a way to differentiate easily the men from women!

In a nutshell: Standards are needed, when it makes sense for the organization to align with  it. But standards are not meant to be copied over and over without any variations. Be innovative, push the standards to the limit. Whatever it is a UI concept or toilet sign!