Yukio Ota is a legendary graphic designer in Japan. As the creator of the green “running man” pictogram that features on the nation’s emergency exit signs which have since spread to Europe, Canada and the Asia-Pacific, Ota is a frontrunner when it comes to developing images that convey a thousand words.

Now the designer of the exit sign is making headlines for his long-term project that aims to have the world using a universal language by 2065. Called the Lovers’ Communication System, or LoCoS, the standardised system based on pictographs has the power to overcome language barriers and revolutionise the world of communication as we know it.

Yukio Ota’s remarkable eye for imagery is clearly evident in his 1974 design for the emergency exit. As a pictogram that can be easily understood by anyone, regardless of nationality or language ability, the green “running man” became an international standardised image in 1987, meaning similar designs can now be seen in Europe, Canada and across the Asia-Pacific region today.

12Image: Wikimedia

▼ In France, the design is slightly modified but remains equally effective.

▼ In Italy, the running man gets down low while running for the door.

▼ In Turkey, there’s a sense of urgency that’s easily expressed without words.


▼ Ota also designed the logo for the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry.

52Image: Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry

The well-known pictogram for emergency evacuation areas in Japan is also Ota’s creation. While the sign played a big part in helping evacuees find shelter during the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami disaster, Ota believes the sign’s effectiveness could be enhanced even further. He’s currently working to incorporate the image on emergency lamps and fluorescent stickers to use on sidewalks and street poles to help guide people during night-time emergency situations.

11Image: Foundation for Promoting Personal Mobility and Ecological Transportation

With such a long and distinguished career in the field of pictogram design, it’s not surprising that Ota has a grand dream to see symbols and images being used to their fullest potential. His vision is for the world to be using a universal language by 2065; and he’s designed an innovative collection  of images and symbols to help make this possible. Called LoCoS, which stands for “Lovers’ Communication System” as it’s designed to allow people to understand each other without words, like lovers do, the code has been in development for 30 years and is both easy to learn and fun to use.

Check out the video below for a comprehensive look at how the entire system works, from ‘words’ to sentence construction and even pronunciation. Could this be the international standard for communication in the future?

The basic pictographs used in LoCoS show us just how well-trained we are when it comes to understanding images without words. Today’s emoji-filled text messages have made us so adept at using pictogram-based systems, the below icons hardly need any explanation.

▼ From left to right: Plane, wine glass, fountain, rain, snow, wind, rainbow.

When it comes to constructing sentences, there’s a simple method to signify past, present and future tense.

▼ From left to right: To do; did; will do; to not do; didn’t do; will not do.

Combining the above tenses with a symbol gives us a simple sentence that’s quick to make and easy to understand.

▼ Clockwise, from top left: To see; to not see; didn’t see; won’t see; will see; saw.


Expanding on this simple structure allows for more complicated messages. And when it comes to pronunciation, there’s a method for that too, although it remains one of the more advanced levels of the system.

By combining the 18 consonants on the left of the picture below with one of nine positions from the vowel grid on the right, it’s possible to create a number of different pronunciations. The sound for a complete symbol is made from each of the symbols’ elements, which means the LoCoS pronunciation of the symbols for “entrance” and “house” are “hoipo” and “vaiho” respectively. Similarly, the name Ota can be constructed using two symbols (bottom right).


LoCoS certainly does have enormous potential to open up lines of communication between individuals and nations who would otherwise suffer a disconnect. Nothing will ever be able to replace the nuances and depth of understanding inherent in the written word, but as a halfway place between text and the common emoji, this pictorial language system is a pretty awesome substitute.

Source: Naver Matome
Top Image: Vimeo/whitescreenjp (edited by RocketNews24)
Insert Images: Vimeo/whitescreenjp (edited by RocketNews24)