Why did we make the Infection Control Symbol Package?

Sept 11 2014 blog title

So…. why did we make the Infection Control Symbol Package?

Because there was nothing there.

Long before our first hand sanitizing station was even an idea, we’ve been steeped in the language of visuals.  When designing signage, recognition and readability are two of the most important factors in their effectiveness, and for ages we’ve been using symbols to maximize both.

There is an impressive language of symbols in common use.  You can convey that smoking is acceptable with a picture of a cigarette, or that it isn’t by framing that in a crossed circle.  That crossed circle can be mixed with other symbols to create other meanings – don’t walk, don’t run, don’t wash in hot water.

The best part about using visuals (which we’ve written about!) is that (say) an Italian speaker and a Japanese speaker will both understand the “no smoking” sign, even if they can’t understand each other.

So, when it came time to use our sign design expertise to help the field of infection control, we were dismayed to find that there was nothing available symbolically to convey the concepts we kept hearing about.  Things like “Hand Hygiene,” “Isolation” and “Outbreak.”  To us, that’s like missing the letter “a” on our keyboard.

So, working with input from specialists across the country to assist in their design, we made our own.

We used universal colours and shapes to imply meaning that supports any text they contain.  The red stop sign shape, the yellow-and-black hazard stripes and red-on-white “X” all convey meaning in and of themselves – if you can’t read English, you can still glean the correct meaning of the symbols.

Realizing that these constituted a powerful resource, we collected all that we had worked on and released them for free download on the internet under a Creative Commons License.  Why give them away?

Because these are really your symbols.  If we kept them to ourselves, they would do very little.  On the internet, however, they can spread.  If someone out there needs a symbol, they’re there for them to use.  This is more important to us than all the licensing fees we could have charged.

Symbols have power, and we want them to be used for good.


You can find the Infection Control Symbol Package here.  Please download and share.  It’s released under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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  1. […] transparent and consistent communications such as carefully-controlled signage, standardized safety symbols and a comprehensive public-facing campaign. On top of this, all these need to be in sync – […]

  2. […] They can be printed, drawn, stenciled, stamped, projected or shown on a digital display.  They are practical to share and distribute.  If designed well, they work at any size from a thumbnail to a billboard, mixed in with […]

  3. […] it came to design elements, they identified many points that we’ve mentioned countless times: the importance of symbols, minimization of text, universal […]

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Licensed for free use under a Creative Commons License. Click the image for the whole Infection Control Symbol Package! (opens in a new window)