Slate’s article suggests three reasons for the increasing prevalence of good signage, and the better wayfaring that comes with it: economic development (i.e., the incentives that good signage provides to businesses), globalization (i.e. the need for more non-native speakers to navigate) and society’s increasing inclusivity.
Of these three reasons, I buy only the latter two. You only need to go to Times Square to see that companies compete ferociously for potential customers’ favor. This doesn’t necessarily mean better wayfaring, it just means more visual junk vying for you attention. Pictography often does mean better wayfaring, if only because it requires a rethinking of the intent behind a sign in its translation from text to icon.
Just a few thoughts.
A few funny examples of bad signage follow. I took the liberty of surfing the internet for some good examples. Right now, all these “walks” are a bit tiring. (just you wait, though!)
And my favorite example of a sign, ever, from my 4th burn: http://www.salamandersociety.com/harveywood/