CASE STUDYThe International Symbol of Access

Murphy’s Start


BRENDÁN MURPHY NOW SENIOR PARTNER AT LIPPINCOTT, NEW YORK, designed this symbol in 1994 while a graduate student at the University of Cincinnati. He had been looking for a thesis subject and had come across an article by Paul Arthur calling for the redesign of the handicap symbol. Arthur (1924–2001) was a British-born Canadian graphic designer who invented pictographs as we know them and claimed credit for coining the terms signage and wayfinding. He was the author of several books, including Wayfinding: People, Signs, and Architecture.

Murphy continues the story: “When I looked into the meaning of the word handicapped (literally meaning cap in ...

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