Thursday Salute to Originals: Destroying Language Barriers One T-Shirt at a Time

Sometimes we come across designs that have a specific purpose driving the concept; these designs aim to solve an issue or highlight a problem. Other times we come across designs that simply are beautifully executed with functional aesthetics, and may have no other purpose than mere visual appeal. It’s not often we come across designs that embody both – much less in T-shirt form!


Recognizing the frustrating language and communications barriers that arise when travelling, IconSpeak  developed a very low-tech, versatile, and  surprisingly well designed method around it. Instead of creating some fancy app or complicated translation device, IconSpeak brought things back to the basics: a t-shirt and universal icons.


So how does it work? The t-shirt is printed with 40 common and universally understood icons – like an airplane, telephone, clock, etc .  When worn, the traveler can easily point to the icons displayed on the t-shirt to communicate with people speaking a different language. The t-shirt circumvents the need for a confusing translation book or a digital translation device that always requires batteries or a charge. It cleverly bridges the language gap, bringing communication back to its most simplistic and rudimentary form – albeit it in a well-designed graphic layout.


Today, we salute IconSpeak’s travelers t-shirt for originality in its design, its medium, and concept – and for giving us a good excuse to finally take that exotic trip abroad! But we also (and perhaps maybe more importantly) salute IconSpeak for their philosophy  (which was shared in an interview):  “…if it is both necessary and useful, don’t hesitate to make it beautiful.”  We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.


Image Credits: Bored Panda; ICONSPEAK