How can we crowdsource a universal symbol for toilet? (one that does not imply that only a sit down flush toilet is a good toilet)

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  • Carol McCreary
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How can we crowdsource a universal symbol for toilet? (one that does not imply that only a sit down flush toilet is a good toilet)

The problem Most of the visuals that embody the idea of 'toilet' focus on the user interface and it's usually a sit-down throne flush toilet. Can we find a more universal symbol for the world we live in? True, the flushing throne may be an aspiration, but can we make space for better options? The vast majority of us squat, at least while defecating, or sit on something that doesn't flush.

Examples UN Water's World Toilet Day logo was designed by a French creative firm, hence the Rodin-like figure trying to puzzle out the hugest global challenge. But there on the left is the white porcelain throne.

The World Toilet Organization's older logo puts the cheerful toilet user lower to the ground. Still sort of sitting on something but his position communicates what he's doing better. And without being offensive.

Possible approach: A design contest!
Remember Acumen's design contest "Sanitation is Sexy. Make it obvious"? That contest attracted some high quality visuals. designobserver.com/feature/acumen-sexy-s...tion-challenge/23268 Could we scale it down to just a logo or icon? Or a simple image that can become part of a logo or icon?

Maybe something like this?
  1. Collaborate here on Forum to write a simple needs statement so designers can visualize the problem.
  2. Circulate to SuSana members - many have designers on staff. This might result in ideas that could be further tweaked. Or maybe SuSanA member group could organize a contest.
  3. Can we come with a small cash prize related to World Toilet Day? Someone will want to sponsor, no? Or maybe a collect a prize package of books and posters contributed by SuSanA, SEI and others?
  4. Help might come from from @AIGAdesign for Good? aiga.org/design-for-goo… AIGAworks internationally but I'm not sure they have chapters outside the United States. Perhaps we could pitch the idea to a local chapter in a city where a SuSanA member is based.
Let’s keep thinking how to fix this, how to fill the void, how to get the challenge out to the creatives.
Carol McCreary
Public Hygiene Lets Us Stay Human (PHLUSH)
1240 W. Sims Way #59, Port Townsend, Washington 98368 USA

Toilet availability is a human right and well-designed sanitation systems restore health to our cities, our waters and our soils.
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  • Elisabeth
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Re: How can we crowdsource a universal symbol for toilet?

Thanks for posting your ideas here, Carol - much appreciated.
I agree with you that a universal symbol for toilet (that does not limit our view of a good toilet to a sit-down flush toilet) would be really great to have. It also seems so difficult to do though, as the sit down flush toilet seems to dominate all logos, symbols etc. that anyone uses in their advertising (even organizations like WSSCC, WASH United and World Toilet Organization).

I hope a designer can come up with something smart and that such a design contest could be launched by someone. A toilet that looks like it has the function of a toilet (a place to safely relieve oneself and to contain one's excreta in some way) without specifying what kind of technology it uses. Kinds of technology, as you pointed out could be flush or not flush, sitting or squatting.

Regards,
Elisabeth
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  • jkeichholz
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Re: How can we crowdsource a universal symbol for toilet? (one that does not imply that only a sit down flush toilet is a good toilet)

Maybe something like the posture that I used on my saniblog logo?

Juergen Eichholz
watsan eng.
water, sanitation, IT & knowledge management
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Toilets in Frankfurt/Main www.facebook.com/ffmtoi
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  • Carol McCreary
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Re: How can we crowdsource a universal symbol for toilet? (one that does not imply that only a sit down flush toilet is a good toilet)

Yes, it is brilliant. Simple simple with oodles of embedded thought. And instantly recognizable as saniblog. Would you be willing to let other designers play around with it? Create something unique? Possible something open source made available (through SuSanA?)that everyone could use. Or even integrate into their logos?

Thank you!
Carol McCreary
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Toilet availability is a human right and well-designed sanitation systems restore health to our cities, our waters and our soils.
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Re: How can we crowdsource a universal symbol for toilet? (one that does not imply that only a sit down flush toilet is a good toilet)

Good idea in principle to focus on the human side, not on the hardware side - although the current version of this logo goes again in the direction of sitting (thereby implying that squatting is not good enough), doesn't it?
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  • jkeichholz
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Re: How can we crowdsource a universal symbol for toilet? (one that does not imply that only a sit down flush toilet is a good toilet)

muench wrote: direction of sitting


Yes, I had to find a compromise between squatting and sitting on one hand and on the other hand a) an "s" (= sanitation), "b" (=blog) and "i" (= internet, iSomething) (which are all more or less in this version of the logo) while avoiding the rune "s" from Nazi Germany ("SS"). => en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Runes character for "S" (which means "sun" ?` :-))
Juergen Eichholz
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Toilets in Frankfurt/Main www.facebook.com/ffmtoi
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  • SusannahClemence
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Re: How can we crowdsource a universal symbol for toilet? (one that does not imply that only a sit down flush toilet is a good toilet)

So much better than confusing 'male' vs 'female' logos used in UK.
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Re: How can we crowdsource a universal symbol for toilet? (one that does not imply that only a sit down flush toilet is a good toilet)

HI All,

I think the competition is a good idea. And I like the direction that Juergen took. You can take it as a compromise between sitting or squatting but you can also look at it as representing an action...moving from standing to sitting or squatting and therefore user interface agnostic.

I've actually spent quite a bit of time trying to identify a good logo represent safe sanitation, brainstormed my own, and even engaged a leading design firm in Seattle to come up with one, but have yet to find something satisfactory. Those people in the water sector have it so easy...just a green or blue water drop and they can capture the idea! Not fair!

A safe sanitation logo, logo for a toilet, or related symbol needs to capture so much. Depending on the objective, use, location, it doesn't need to capture all of the following but certainly some of the following or integrate well with:
  • safe, secure, clean (primary)
  • male / female
  • handicap accessible
  • #1 and #2
  • pay per use or free
  • price for children and adults
  • technology agnostic (pedestal or squat)
  • practice agnostic (wipe or wash)
  • (please add more if you think of them)


I don't mean to imply that the logo needs to have all of the "features" listed but if it can tie in well with them, when used on an outhouse for example, it can reduce clutter and look more professional.

I think what makes it especially challenging is that the iconography needs to present the purpose without being distasteful or off-putting. And it needs to be, or ideally would be, universal. So showing or representing any of the following isn't likely to be successful:
  • someone peeing
  • someone pooping
  • showing poop
  • showing a roll of toilet paper
  • showing an outhouse

Alternatively, the logo could show a toilet and a squat plate, or blend some of the other messages but logo's like that tend to get messy and confusing.

Definitely a challenge.

Cheers.
Andrew Whitesell
President/Founder of Beaumont
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Re: How can we crowdsource a universal symbol for toilet? (one that does not imply that only a sit down flush toilet is a good toilet)

Carol McCreary wrote: Would you be willing to let other designers play around with it? Create something unique? Possible something open source made available (through SuSanA?)that everyone could use. Or even integrate into their logos?


Yes that would be nice. I publish almost all of my work under a Creative Commons BY licence ==> creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/ . Sharing is caring!
Juergen Eichholz
watsan eng.
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www.saniblog.org

Toilets in Frankfurt/Main www.facebook.com/ffmtoi
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  • JKMakowka
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Re: How can we crowdsource a universal symbol for toilet? (one that does not imply that only a sit down flush toilet is a good toilet)

I already know that this will never pick up, but really the only thing universal about toilets is what primarily goes into it: Feces and urine. Thus a "universal" symbol should be signifying that, maybe similar to those "pee & poo" mascots or so.

But I also don't think I ever had a problem finding the toilet in another country because the symbol was not universal. In fact in many countries it's great fun (especially in bars and restaurants) to see what kind of often intentionally funny signs they have put up.

So why try to fix something that isn't really broken?
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  • milli
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Re: How can we crowdsource a universal symbol for toilet? (one that does not imply that only a sit down flush toilet is a good toilet)

Hi everybody,

an interesting but also challenging fact about icons/symbols is that on the one hand they have to be as simple as possible in order to be understandable but on the other hand they should not discriminate certain groups or perpetuate stereotypes.

Me personally, I am not very satisfied with the SuSanA icon of sanitation systems (the blue icon). That's why I want to tie on this discussion.
I see that the symbols used in the blue icon are really easy recognizable without having to show a certain toilet technology. However, I don't like that it implies disabled persons do not have a gender identity. Also, it shows stereotyped forms of gender binarity (maybe also more of a western country issue?). I am wondering if it would work to replace the symbols with symbols of a squatting and a sitting toilet? On the other hand, sanitation systems are more than just toilets...

Do you have opinions on this? How do you like the blue icon?

Best,
milli
Danijela Milosevic
M.Sc. Environmental and Resource Management
Gießen, Germany
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Re: How can we crowdsource a universal symbol for toilet? (one that does not imply that only a sit down flush toilet is a good toilet)

Adding to Milli's post: In case someone is not sure what she means with the "blue icon", it's the one at the top of the page which we use for the category on "sanitation systems". I.e. this one:



At the time when we created it, it felt like a good improvement to show people with disabilities in the icon to give this topic more visibility. I can see Milli's concern about implying that they are "genderless" but I can't think of a good solution to improve on this (in any case, there are many types of disabilities, not just those where people have to use a wheelchair - if they can even afford one!).

I find Kris' suggestion of using symbols for urine and faeces in some acceptable, nice shape or form something very much worth considering, as at the end of the day, these two substances are really at the heart of the sanitation system, aren't they?

It would however go against what Andrew said in his post on 6 November above. He said "let's not show poop"...
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