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The Semiotics of Toilet Signs

Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNISA,volume 11568)


Various types of signs for public restrooms are pervasive in our society. In addition to indicating gender classification, there are cultural differences among regions and communities in the representation of these signs. There have been several studies on toilet signs that possess many aspects of academic investigation, including social study, cognitive analysis, and gender research. To investigate the academic issues surrounding public restroom iconography, - and to understand how the signs convey the designer’s intent to citizens, a database of toilet signs has been constructed. More than 550 items are storedin this database, and published on the Internet. They are categorized into several groups by a method similar to a folksonomy. This paper describes the results of an analysis of the database, and what types of toilet sign trends are revealed by the study.


  • Toilet signs
  • Cultural differences
  • Consumer-generated database

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  • DOI: 10.1007/978-3-030-22636-7_20
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  1. 1.

    Several blog articles describe the existence of an excellent analysis of the semiotics of toilet signs, performed by Sensemaya. However, the report was deleted as of November 2018, and cannot be accessed online.

  2. 2.

    Tweet from the toilet marks:;


  3. 3.

    Washroom of the day (Public Facebook group):


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  2. Johannessen, C.M.: A corpus-based approach to Danish toilet signs. RASK 39, 149–183 (2013)

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  3. Pantouvaki, S.: The visual and social semiotics of toilet signs in Greece, In: Drinkwater, M.A. (ed.) Beyond Textual Literacy: Visual Literacy for Creative & Critical Inquiry, pp. 131–139 (2011)

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  4. Jie, Z.: The analysis of application and problems in bilingual public signs or plates. Sino-US Engl. Teach. 13(6), 492–498 (2016)

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Correspondence to Jun Iio .

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Iio, J. (2019). The Semiotics of Toilet Signs. In: Kurosu, M. (eds) Human-Computer Interaction. Design Practice in Contemporary Societies. HCII 2019. Lecture Notes in Computer Science(), vol 11568. Springer, Cham.

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