Sunday, 13 October 2019


Introduced in East Berlin on this day in 1961, the “little traffic light man” was the product of extensive research and experimentation on the part of safety planner and vehicular relations psychologist Karl Peglau (*1927 – †2009), whom had wanted to make stop lights differentiated not only by colour but also by shape to provide cues to the not insignificant portion of the population who were colour-blind—seeing his vision realised in one aspect at least.
Modelled off a candid image taken of the then Politbüro member who organised the building of the Berlin Wall, future long-term general secretary Erich Honecker, sporting a jaunty straw hat, the icons’ two poses, walking briskly and arms akimbo signalled to pedestrians when it was safe to cross. After reunification, East German street and traffic signage was dismantled in efforts to standardise typefaces and the Ampelmännchen nearly succumbed to the same fate but was saved (with many tributes—here and here for example) due to the intervention of a soap opera and the symbol was made a mascot of East Germany and Ostalgie.