Pictorial Warnings from Picturesque Italy

Sign from ItalyWe love pictorial warnings at Lawhaha.com, as shown here, here, here, here, here, here, and several other places.  Remember that the goal of a pictorial warning is to advise of risks or deliver instructions to persons who cannot read or understand the written warning.  So in trying to figure them out, you have to set aside the textual versions that usually accompany pictorial warnings.

Europe, with free travel among so many people of different cultures and languages, relies more heavily on pictorial warnings than the United States.

Here we have a sign from Italy with six pictorial warnings/instructions.  Which ones can you figure out without consulting the accompanying text?

Me?  Going left to right starting at the top row, I’d say:

1.  The first (no dumping trash on the ground) is reasonably clear.

2.  The second (no camping) is not clear. Maybe it could be used for “No public sex,” as it looks kind of like one person lying on top of another.  Just don’t see the camping angle.

3.  The third (no eating near monuments) may work, but it raises the question, “Why can’t you eat near monuments?”  Probably because: go back to number one.  Eaters leave trash.  But dilution of impact results with the proliferation of warnings and instructions.  The more there are, the less likely people pay attention to any of them.

4.  They could have done a better job with the fourth one (do not smear or deface).  The figure could be spraying bug repellant or air freshener or anything.  But more important, picture a person with a can of spray paint prepared to tag monuments.  He sees the sign.  Is it really going to change his mind?  “Oh, I didn’t know you weren’t allowed to deface the monuments with spray paint.  I came all the way out here for nothing.”

5.  In the fifth one (no bathing in fountains), I can’t get past laughing at the little doggie in the picture.  He’s really cute, but what is he doing there?  And the guy looks like he’s taking an actual bath.  The canine is probably there to indicate no dog-bathing in fountains, but it still cracks me up.

6.  The sixth one (do not go bare-chested in public) does not compute because the diagonal “do not ever this”-slash covers the entire image, which includes one person wearing a bathing suit top.  Looks more like “No hand-holding” or “No couples.”

So, maybe three out of six would be my scoring.  What do you think?

–Thanks to Pat Crowell.

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Andrew Jay McClurg is a law professor whose teaching and research interests include tort law, products liability, legal education, privacy law and firearms policy. He holds the Herbert Herff Chair of Excellence in Law at the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law.
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