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March 14, 2005

Inventing a Universal Language for Our Small World

NORTHAMPTON, Mass.—The designer whose signage directs travelers flying into New York City’s airports from all over the world will talk about overcoming communication barriers with a universal visual language at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 23. Located in Graham Auditorium, Hillyer Hall, the event is free and open to the public.

Paul Mijksenaar, a researcher at Delft University in the Netherlands who specializes in the creation of visually oriented information systems, will discuss historical attempts to develop a global language, some pitfalls resulting from those attempts, and options for the future.

His lecture title, “The Quest for a Visual Esperanto,” references the artificial language introduced in 1887 and intended by its inventor, Polish linguist Ludwik Lejzer Zamenhof, to ease communication between speakers of different languages.
As travel becomes an option for increasing numbers of people, the need to overcome communication hurdles also becomes increasingly important.

Mijksenaar’s design agency, the Bureau Mijksenaar, developed the signage system to facilitate travelers’ movements in three hubs through which millions of people pass each year: John F. Kennedy International Airport, LaGuardia Airport and Newark International Airport.

The agency’s user-friendly color-coded signage now connects roads, parking facilities and terminals at those airports. Moviegoers saw Mijkensaar’s work in Steven Spielberg’s recent movie “The Terminal,” set in the John F. Kennedy International Airport. And, in 2003, the signage earned Bureau Mijksenaar the highest award granted by the Society for Environmental Graphic Design.

The lecture is sponsored by the Kahn Liberal Arts Institute project for 2004-2005 called “Visual Languages.”

Office of College Relations
Smith College
Garrison Hall
Northampton, Massachusetts 01063

Kristen Cole
Media Relations Director
T (413) 585-2190
F (413) 585-2174

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