No smoke

Territory creative director Lee Fasciani explores the well-crafted smoking symbol, a neatly formed icon that’s both elegant and straightforward.

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The ubiquitous smoking symbol has been around ever since I can remember. Although I don’t smoke, it has always fascinated me from a design perspective – the stylised smoke is beautifully crafted giving balance and authority to the symbol. The smoke has been drawn with subtle variations on line thickness with a level of detail often associated with type design.

The definition of a good symbol or icon is its ability to clearly communicate a message in an instant, across cultures, languages and decades, irrespective of trends or styles. They need to be timeless. The smoking symbol is one such example. In its simple constitution of the three parts of cigarette, ash and smoke, it immediately denotes its message: whether that be smoking 'allowed' or 'prohibited' with the addition of the red circle and bar. Whilst the smoke could have been represented with complicated curls or heavy 'clouds', instead it is indicated with smooth, elegant curves, with the vertical bars of 'ash' connecting them to the cigarette itself. No person or disembodied hand is included, or needed – this symbol has been distilled to its clearest form.

Its longevity speaks for itself.