Monday, 29 March 2010

Ampelmann Berlin

When walking around Berlin you can't help but notice that some of the traffic light symbols are different to other more traditional European ones. The ampel men were an East German invention, designed in 1961 to combat growing levels of road traffic accidents the ampel men were designed by traffic psychologist Karl Peglau who found that the public react quicker to appealing symbols. Soon the ampel men had become part of everyday life, being used in TV advertisement for traffic safety and also in schools and educational videos. When Germany was reunified the West German authorities wanted to get rid of the Ampelmann and replace him with a more standard European style symbol. The only thing that saved the Ampelmann was the designer Markus Heckhausen, he used the symbol in his products, creating glass lights in the shape of the glass men. This raised the profile of the Ampelmann and soon supporters had formed the 'Committee for the Preservation of Ampel Men' and the media were on board. The Ampelmann was saved and now as well as being found in East Germany he can also be found in a few new West German towns directing pedestrians across selected crossings.

In Berlin the Ampelmann is an interesting symbol of the division between East and West. You can often tell which part of the city you are in simply by the traffic lights. The story of the ampel men is a positive one and probably one of the only nationally embraced symbols of old divide. Now the Ampelmann is something of a tourist money making scheme with some of the most clever marketing I have seen. The Ampelmann shop contains every Ampelmann product you could ever want or need, including; pasta, sweets, towels, bottle openers, mugs, bags, clothes, coasters, chopping boards, lights, vases, door stops.....the list is endless! I particularly liked these 2 postcards:

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