Occasionally, you hear about a graphic that has been published, but unfortunately the designers missed a second way interpreting of it. For example, this ad that was actually published:

An ad from the Locum company. In the ad, the logo reads as 'I♥cum'

Source: A Reddit thread.

The name of this company is Locum, but for this ad they switched the 'o' in their logo (see the bottom of the ad) to a heart. Unfortunately, the lowercase 'L' of the logo could also be interpreted as an capital 'I'. This made the logo spell out "I♥cum". Readers of the paper noticed it and ever since this image has been wandering around the internet. While this might have given some free publicity to the company, this is of course something you would want to avoid. So my question is

What can be done to avoid this happening to one of your own designs?

Of course one of the most important and easy things to do is to get input from someone else. But apart from that, what can be done? Are there strategies or best-practices that help prevent something like this?

I've tried finding a duplicate question on this site, but I couldn't find one. I found this question about misinterpretation, but I'm specifically asking about missing a second meaning, not a general misinterpretation.

I also was pointed towards this question about how designers should react when a second meaning is pointed out to them. I feel this is a different question, because I'm specifically asking how you can avoid such meetings with the client in the first place.

The actual motive for this question

The misinterpretation I described happened to me when I wanted to switch back to this site from a different tab:

Graphic Design Stack Exchange tab in Firefox Quantum

Graphic Design's logo

The graphic reminded me of the female reproduction organ. Now I can't unsee it. I'm so sorry.

  • I feel like I've seen a very similar post on here not too long ago...
    – Welz
    Jan 17, 2019 at 1:45
  • @WELZ There was, but it was more about iconography (see "related" links). I checked it and though this was different enough so as to not vote as a duplicate.
    – Scott
    Jan 17, 2019 at 2:48
  • 1
    @Scott that's a different one than the one I'm thinking about... there was one which explicitly mentioned ovaries.
    – Welz
    Jan 17, 2019 at 2:56
  • 4
  • 1
    @Scott, thanks for linking that answer. I've looked at it, but that question is more about how you should react and what to do once such a second meaning has slipped through. But I'm wondering how you can avoid such a situation in the first place.
    – Bassie-c
    Jan 17, 2019 at 11:33

3 Answers 3


Well for the native languages, there's little that can be done to overcome everyone individual perception. I don't see any "female reproduction" in this site's logo. That's merely your perception based upon your own experience. That can't be overcome. We are all a conglomeration of our own experiences. I can't try to jump through hoops or guess at what your experiences mean to your perception.

For translated languages, you need a native speaker. However, since your ad example is not an English language ad, there would be no reason to believe it would read in English*. It may be perfectly innocuous in the native tongue. I'm sure I've created things that are unintentionally horrifically offensive in other languages.

*Although English is common enough, So I suspect that ad "error" was actually intentional. Which DOES happen. I once received a mail catalog from a very well known name brand department store with a well known offensive 4-letter word, which starts with "F", sprawled across the back cover. It was part of the print, not added later - as if a pressman used his finger on the plates to add it. Disgruntled workers will do that at times.

  • I just recently saw an ad for ride sharing in Austria that highlights the word "Buddyfahrt". I'm sure they didn't care about english speakers.
    – Luciano
    Jan 17, 2019 at 10:58
  • Yeah but swedes do in general understand english (in fact swedes rank as the second best english speakers after natives). So big faux pass.
    – joojaa
    Jan 17, 2019 at 13:52

Don't overthink it.

In Swedish language "cum" is not a word. A Swedish person won't see it there. This postcard was targeted at Swedish people.

It's similar case to that Mitsubishi Pajero or Chevrolet Nova. The first word ONLY in Spanish means "wanker". The second is "won't go" (But I think only in European Spanish).

You cannot try to avoid any second meaning because everything could have second meaning to someone. I could draw a vertical line and laugh that it's an erected penis. In Poland we have a joke:

At doctors office the patient is shown different cards and ask with what he associate them with. He sees a circle - sex, he see triangle - sex, square - sex, car - sex. The doctors ask "why on everything I show you say sex?" "Because for me everything is associated with sex"

When a client don't see a second meaning, when a designer don't see a second meaning, when a focus group (or at least two extra people) don't see a second meaning you can safely assume that general public won't see it either. You can also safely assume that someone will see something that's not there.

  • Except most swedes are also fluent in English so yeah they would notice it.
    – joojaa
    Jan 17, 2019 at 13:53

This is a true story: A company in a small country decided to start global marketing of their products because exporting seemed a good way to get growth. In the beginning they put out something like "Rape". It means "Crispy" in their native language.

In that country the lesson was learned fast. Companies which have export business have a big cataloque of non-acceptable words in several popular languages covering sex, dirt, derogative speech, religion etc... All marketing texts are inspected automatically.

  • Well actually not quite crispy but close enough
    – joojaa
    Jan 17, 2019 at 13:54

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.