Brilliant new T-shirt lets travelers communicate with anyone, regardless of the language they speak

iconspeak travel signs t shirt screen shot 2016 04 21 at 1 59 25 pm
Your mother may have told you that pointing is rude, but when you need to communicate, you do what you gotta do. Now, that involves pointing at your new favorite travel shirt from Iconspeak. It’s not “smart” in the 21st-century digital sense of the word, but it’s still pretty genius (if not absurd in its simplicity). Iconspeak offers the “ultimate functional wear for the modern traveler,” and that includes a seriously clever T-shirt that features 40 of the most commonly asked-for icons when traveling in a foreign land. So instead of relying on your odd gesticulations and broken (though sincere) attempts at speaking another language, just point to what you need instead — on yourself.

The very definition of a statement piece, Iconspeak was created by a Swiss team that recognized a need for easier methods of communication. “We came up with the idea in 2013 when we were riding motorbikes through Vietnam and one broke down,” co-founder George Horn told CNN. At the time, he and his friends used a series of flashcards bearing symbols to get their point across to the locals, and found that it was a surprisingly efficient means of communication. So of course, they turned it into a T-shirt.

“It was a long process,” Horn said. “We started with a huge list of possible items and began testing a lot of prototypes.” The 40 symbols were carefully considered to ensure that none of them could be offensive (no religious symbols are included, for example), but were all necessary and useful in day-to-day life.

“I’ve been testing them around Europe and my colleague Florian is right now using them in Latin America,” he added.

Currently available for purchase online at iconspeak.world, the shirts retail for $33 and include figures to help you talk about everything from bikes to beer to the Wi-Fi — basically, the important things in life. So if you’ve got any trips coming up, perhaps considering investing in a shirt instead of a new edition of Rosetta Stone.

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