Whether you realize it or not, your entire life is filled with logos. We all recognize the ubiquitous golden arches of Mcdonald’s or Nike’s swoosh, but what about the more universal logos that are sort of included in the package deal of being alive today? The fact that there’s the same man and woman designs on EVERY bathroom you’ve ever been to… That no matter if you’re at a rundown movie theater or a 5 star restaurant you see the same exact red and white EXIT sign… Few ever stop to think about who exactly designed these logos that have become so inherent in all of our lives.
One man in Britain, Peter Jones, a Principal Consultant at the independent environmental and commercial organization, Eunomia Research & Consulting, recently approached Skillshare for help unraveling the origin story of a different logo — the symbol simply known as the Tidyman.
What’s the Tidyman, you ask?
The Tidyman is an image of a stick figure leaning to drop garbage into a trash can. While not as well known in America, he’s an icon in the UK — responsible for helping to keep streets clean for more than half a century. After being out of use for some time, the much-loved logo was recently reintroduced to the public by the UK’s anti-littering organization, Keep Britain Tidy.
When the Tidyman design first launched in the late 60s, it was rumored to be inspired by a US design, one originally created as a collaboration between Keep America Beautiful and the American Brewers Association. However, today neither of those organizations has any clue where the design came from and almost 60 years later, the American source of this British cultural icon is still nowhere to be found.
Said Peter Jones: “The Tidyman is one of the most recognizable logos in the UK, found on wrappers, bottles, and garbage cans. It’s great to see him making a return in Keep Britain Tidy’s latest campaign, though for many of us it feels like he never really went away. His message of responsible litter-disposal has been ingrained in many a child as they grew up, and serves as a reminder for adults too. When I came to investigate his origins in the United States, it astounded me that they are so hard to trace – he truly is an international man of mystery. I hope someone can cast a little more light on his past, and that we can give credit to his designer.”
We couldn’t agree more and we’re excited Mr. Jones approached us to help him figure this out. In a world where so many artists and designers go unnoticed and underappreciated, wouldn’t it be great to give credit where credit’s due? Especially when the design in question is a fundamental representation of being a civically responsible citizen for millions of people. Moreover, we figure if anyone could crack this Tidyman mystery, it’d be our brilliant, creative community.
So… if you have ideas about the origins of the Tidyman, or know who deserves the credit for his creation, please shoot us an email at [email protected] or get in touch via Twitter using @skillshare and the hashtag #SearchingForTidyman.
We reserve the right to reward helpful answers with awesome Skillshare swag!
EDIT: Just a short three and a half years after our initial posting of this article, we received this email from UK-based creative Chris Wall:
The Tidyman was commissioned by Robert Worley of The Keep Britain Tidy Group with the brief to create a pictogram that needed no supporting text to explain and could be reproduced in any colour making it useable across multinational packaging and communications. As a freelance designer at the time, I created the original artwork for the Tidyman – and now just wish I received royalties for its use!
Mystery solved! Thank you Chris Wall.
Cover photo by Igor Ovsyannykov