This Traffic Cone infographic highlights its obscure history, design, and influence on pop culture and the world for nearly 100 years.
I believe that the traffic cone, though with some limitations, is a very successful invention. Its success is not due to how useful it is. But how effectively it communicates to humans on an instinctual level. The traffic cone’s simple shape and bright orange color resemble the most well-known naturally dangerous element on earth. Fire. When moving at high speeds in a car the cone appears in your view, you immediately recognize it. You then know to avoid it without having to think twice. Its ability to communicate danger is so effective. It has spread all over the entire world to become a symbol of caution no matter where you are.
The traffic cone was invented in 1941 by Charles D. Scanlon in Los Angeles. He was a city painter. As cars were filling the roads, he realized he needed something to warn drivers to avoid him as he was painting near busy streets. At that time signs for road hazards were made of cement which made them very heavy to move. They caused a lot of damage if accidentally bumped into. Scanlon had the idea to create a lightweight, stackable, highly visible, and road-safe temporary safety device called the traffic cone.
In its nearly 100 year history, the traffic cone has changed little from its original design. There are countless other variations of it that are for communicating very specific things. There’s an entire ecosystem of them now. Also, nowadays manufacturers are embedding them with chips and sensors to send alerts from their location if moved or if there has been an accident. Their useful actually continuing to grow as time progresses.
Traffic cones have also inspired artists, such as Banksy and many others, to create sculptures. From extremely large installations to very tiny symbols. These sculptures can be seen in cities and museums all over the world. The fashion industry has also used them to inspire designs for purses and various other articles of clothing. Also, on Etsy.com you can see hundreds of artistic items influenced by them.