If you come to a red octagonal sign standing on a post by the side of a road, chances are you will know what to do without even knowing the language. The stop sign is an international symbol. How did a geometrical shape transform into the symbol for an action? Blame it on the car.
Detroit Michigan is linked to the Great Lakes and the Saint Lawrence Seaway by the Detroit River. The city therefore has access to the Canadian market, and the international market by boat. A majority of the automotive empires that are still household names started in this State at the turn of the twentieth century: Ford, General Motors and Chrysler. With the boom of the automotive industry came a huge influx of population- from 265, 000 in 1900 to over 1.5 million in 1930. Ford was known for paying employees well enough that they might be able to afford the machines that they made. Responding to this new population glut, as well as the popularity of the car, demanded the ability to manage movement- and the stop sign was born. The first known stop sign was erected in Michigan in 1915- the car capital of the country.
Originally the black letters were painted on a white background, but with the creation of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials in 1914, a new design was proposed to regulate all signs in the United States. In 1922, the red octagonal sign with white letters was created. The eight sided shape was chosen so that drivers that are not facing the words, and that are driving at night can quickly identify the symbol.
By 1968 a United Nations Convention adopted the red stop sign as an international symbol. All member countries would use the red octagonal shape, signalling a new turn for our global community.