That truism prompted Professor Yukio Ota to select a design by NCR's Andrew Kit as the winner of a contest sponsored by the ATM Industry Association to commemorate the deployment of the world's one millionth ATM, which occurred sometime earlier this year. The ATMIA hopes the winning design, a black-and-white graphic of a hand collecting several bills from a slot, will become a universally recognized symbol for the ATM.
"(The winning design)… simply and clearly shows the purpose of ATMs. Other designs were explanations of how to use ATMs or contained many expressions which placed weight on the use of cards, which are only a means," said Ota of Japan's Tama Art University, the designer of such well-known icons as the emergency exit pictogram and the internationally used fire-fighting safety sign.
It was a challenge, Kit said, to produce a design that would effectively convey the meaning of an ATM across many cultures and in many countries.
"Irrespective of location, the one thing people associate with an ATM is the availability of cash," said Kit, an industrial designer based at NCR's plant in Dundee, Scotland. "The design I submitted dealt with iconic recognition of the bank note and the symbol of the hand set against a black rectangle, which represents the shutter of the ATM. These three elements combined communicate the withdrawal of cash."
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Kit's first several efforts featured graphics of stick figures standing next to ATMs, but he chose to remove those elements and simplify his design. "I thought that most people would identify with the money in hand and relate that to the ATM," he explained.
It was a chance for Kit to use graphic design skills that he hasn't exercised much since his school days at the University of Teesside and Central St. Martin's College of Art and Design, both in the UK. His work at Dundee is almost exclusively focused on three-dimensional design of such objects as ATM fascia.
Kit's design was publicly revealed for the first time on Sept. 19 during a conference sponsored by the ATMIA in London, "Optimising ATMs in Britain and Europe." It was a special honor, Kit said, as many of his industry peers were in attendance.
NCR made somewhat of a clean sweep of the contest as two of Kit's colleagues, Steve Swaine and Charlie Rohan, earned second and third place honors, respectively.
Of the 97 entries received by ATMIA, International Director Mike Lee said, "I was struck by the amazing number of ways in which the ATM can be both interpreted and creatively presented. Some designs focused on the front interface of the machine, others on the human interaction with the machine, others on the ATM card and still others on a more abstract representation."
The ATMIA presented Kit with two engraved plaques and certificates to commemorate the honor, and will also send him to its Oct. 9-11 Conference West in Las Vegas, "The New Frontier for ATMs."
The next move, Lee said, is to make the pictogram a symbol recognized around the world. Ota has offered advice on getting the symbol accredited with the International Standards Organization (ISO).
"The other step is marshalling the support of all ATM businesses to actually promote and use the pictogram in public places," he said. "We already have several exhibitors at our show who are keen to roll out the design. It's a question of uniting the industry behind the sign."
Kit said the idea that his design could become linked so strongly with the ATM makes him quite proud. "It's great to have produced something that will be around a lot longer than I will."