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Wide Variety of Symbols Communicate the Message of Social Distancing


Signs and symbols to promote social distancing have become common during the COVID-19 pandemic — but no particular symbol has become established as universal.

Aradhna Krishna

Michigan Ross Professor of Marketing Aradhna Krishna says that some symbols are more effective than others in communicating their intended message. In a new article from the BBC on the variety of distancing symbols, Krishna says simple signs with bright colors work best.

“An ideal symbol is one that gets noticed and that triggers a natural response in viewers,” Krishna told the BBC. Krishna has been doing research on road signs for a long time.

In addition, Krishna — who is herself working on a universal distancing symbol with an international team — addresses the difference between voluntary and non-voluntary signs, concluding that a mix of both styles may be most effective. 

“The best signs are the one that actually make people want to respect a rule,” Krishna says. “We need to understand what can push people to want social distance.”


Aradhna Krishna is the Dwight F. Benton Professor of Marketing at the University of Michigan Ross School of Business.

Media Contact: Bridget Vis, Public Relations Specialist, visb@umich.edu

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