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April 13, 2005 12:04 AM

Broken: Sign on glass doors

Dsc00448Seth Godin writes:

here's the door at the Armory in Morningside Heights, north Manhattan.

There are two doors.

The door that you're supposed to ignore, the one that doesn't open, has a big sign on it. (first mistake)

That sign says, "USE THIS DOOR" (second mistake)

It has an arrow that actually has the true instruction.

Why not say, USE THAT DOOR?

Even better, why don't they put the sign on the other door and leave the arrow off?


At least there's a sign. How many times do you find one door of a pair of double doors locked with no indication at all? Some day when I'm feeling ornery, after I walk up to the locked door in such a pair expecting it to open as I push it, I'm going to grab my wrist and scream and see how much management offers to pay me to keep from suing.

Posted by: stoo at April 13, 2005 07:08 AM

One of my pet peeves is the scenario stoo describes above. It makes so little sense to me to keep half of a pair of doors locked all the time. Half the time customers try to get in, they'll encounter a locked door. Sure, they'll switch to the other door, but the message from the business is clear: we're so incompotent, we're unable to unlock both of these doors to let eager customers like you in.

(Is the "user experience" of unlocking the second door in a set of double doors so difficult?)

Posted by: w at April 13, 2005 08:18 AM

Another example of the great failure of American

public education. Communication, especially

knowing how to communicate, is not taught any

more. As for knowing WHEN to communicate, just

watch the dingbats who never use signal lights!

Posted by: Wilmot Fink at April 13, 2005 08:43 AM

My favorite is when the locked door has a sign over it that says, "This door to remain unlocked during business hours."


Posted by: Quillis at April 13, 2005 08:51 AM

I'll bet my gym socks there is a law that says both doors must be unlocked for fire safety reasons.

Posted by: DaveC426913 at April 13, 2005 10:23 AM

I saw a good newspaper cartoon once with two doors. One said "Use Other Door". The other door said "Do Not Enter". Staring confusedly at the doors was the poor victim who you just knew would be stuck there until he died of starvations. ;)

Posted by: Citizen Of Trantor at April 13, 2005 10:34 AM

I'm with Dave on this one, but if there isn't then there is something else very broken: Why the heck does the law require there to be two doors if it then allows one to be locked?

Posted by: Erich at April 13, 2005 01:45 PM

Slightly off-subject, but a response to the following comment:

Posted by: Wilmot Fink at April 13, 2005 08:43 AM:

>>Another example of the great failure of American public education. Communication, especially knowing how to communicate, is not taught any more. As for knowing WHEN to communicate, just watch the dingbats who never use signal lights!


You've got to be kidding me! From what I remember, it was my parents who taught me how to communicate. The education system helped refine my skills, but it certainly is not the public schools' fault that people grow up with poor communication skills.

There are only two problems with today's public education system: it's not funded well enough, and a too-large proportion of parents refuse to "communicate" to their kids that school is important.


7th Grade Science

Posted by: Flip at April 13, 2005 02:12 PM


If you said "use this door" on the correct door, then someone about to head into the wrong door might not notice the sign. But if you are about to head into the right door, you won't need to see the sign. Obviously you have no logic, or surprisingly little.

Posted by: head injury at April 13, 2005 04:33 PM

Plus, the instructions on the sign are PERFECTLY CLEAR...

Posted by: daaayh...HED INGURE at April 13, 2005 04:41 PM

"use this door

Posted by: unknown at April 13, 2005 05:02 PM

Not broken, you've got to be kidding me, head injury. I suspect that your lack of reasoning is either the cause of or caused from your head injury.

The sign on the door says USE THIS DOOR, but the sign isn't hung on the door that you should use. There are a number of ways of addressing this issue.

1. Make the non functioning door, not look like a door. Some simple ways of doing this involve removing push/pull hardware from this "door", while at the same time enhancing the door operating hardware on the other door. I'm thinking something along the lines of a wide band at door knob height that is used for opening the door instead of pushing against the glass.

2. Make sure hours and Open/closed signage is hanging from the door. You could even do something as simple as placing a Welcome mat at the foot of the door to indicate that visitors are welcome to use this door.

3. This could also be solved by turning the door into an automatic door. Upon approaching either door the system would sense the customer and begin opening the functioning door.

Another common problem with these glass/metal doors is that a door might read push, but the hardware is designed in such a way that you intuitively want to pull it. Example the door hardware extends out from the door stile and incorporates a lip that encourages people to grab on and pull it. Ideally if a door is meant to be pushed, it should have an area to push that is surface mounted and projects out as little as possible. If the door is meant to be pulled, then it should utilize hardware that is easy to pull.

Posted by: Joshua Wood at April 13, 2005 05:03 PM

Thank you, Josh Wood, for your comprehensive novel on door signage. I have thoroughly studied it and brought up rebuttals to your reasoning.

1. THERE ARE SIMPLER WAYS TO MAKE A DOOR OUT-OF ORDER THAN REMOVING THE HANDLES. What if it’s just a temporary repair? (in this case it’s not, but still...)

2. Open and closed signs don’t mean anything; they are often hung from windows. Mavbe a doormat would help but it wouldn’t be very clear.

3. Again, YOU SHOULDN’T NEED A FREAKING MOTORIZED DOOR to get people to understand which door to go in.

I think the basic issue here is that “Which door would you go in?” If you choose the correct door, then it works fine. It may not win the “Best out of order door sign of the year” award, but who cares? If you chose the wrong door, then you obviously have a bigger head injury than me and shouldn’t be roaming the streets.

Posted by: HED INJUREE DUSNT MEEN IM DHUM! at April 13, 2005 05:27 PM

Everyone except Quillis, Seth, Dave, citizen, and myself ought to be banned from the computer, especially flip.

Posted by: yeah it does at April 13, 2005 05:44 PM

i agree. ok

arguing sucks

-head injury

Posted by: I AMME HUMBELLED at April 13, 2005 05:56 PM

You could also just remove both doors completely, and solve all problems...

Wait, there's that theft thing...crap.

Posted by: someone who doesn't take themselves too seriously... at April 13, 2005 06:19 PM

This reminds me of a cartoon I saw where a group of soldiers with a battering ram was attacking a medieval castle. They were about to smash the ram into the main gate of the castle when they noticed a sign saying "Please Use Other Door". The soldiers immediately turned around and headed for a smaller door placed next to the main one, presumably dying painful deaths.

Posted by: fuzzy at April 13, 2005 06:37 PM

Why does everyone always have to prove that things are not broken???

Posted by: john at April 13, 2005 06:44 PM

The reason you can have two doors an one of them locked is becasue you can leave through a locked door, fire code doesn't effect how sotres could limit you from entering.

Posted by: Vic at April 13, 2005 06:53 PM

One of the main reasons doors are locked is so that wind does not catch them and bang them against the wall, breaking the glass.

Joshua, not very valid points, mostly because, this particular sign is at a military armory... now, the armory here, also has a sign, similar, if not the same. Armories dont have open close times, rarely get visitors except those who are "supposed" to be there.. and most people actually intelligent enough to be out at the armory, can understand that sign perfectly.

Posted by: Dragon at April 13, 2005 07:41 PM

Hehe... TIB always has a way to make me fall out of my office chair laughing. ^_^

Posted by: Another Alex at April 13, 2005 08:17 PM

Once I read that the sign was on US Government/military property, it suddenly made sense!

Just like this makes sense:

"...there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say, we know there are some things we don't know. But, there are also unknown unknowns - the ones we dont know we dont know," - Donny R.

Now I don't know which door to use, or, not use, that is to say...

Posted by: myheadhurts at April 13, 2005 09:12 PM

Why do people freak out about the wording on a sign? The arrow makes the meaning clear, and if you get it wrong the first time it only takes three seconds to try the other one. At least ONE of them is unlocked. If both were locked there would be a good reason to complain. Or maybe finding others' errors just makes us feel good.

Posted by: Contra at April 13, 2005 09:38 PM

contra your fired

Posted by: ldkfg at April 14, 2005 08:33 AM

One of my favorite "" pics is that of a warning sign on a machine. "CAUTION: This machine designed specifically to kill you. If this one doesn't succeed, that one knows where you live." It demonstrates clearly the use of "this" and "that." Here, "this" refers to the sign on the machine designed to kill you. "That" refers to another, distant machine. No arrow is used.

In the door sign case, it would be acceptable to use the word "this" provided the location in the space/time continuum of the door referenced by "this" is clearly indicated by an arrow or if "this" were the correct door, sans arrow. However, the arrow is placed in a position which does not make it clear as to what its purpose is. Is it purely decorative? Is it designed to show people that the walkway outside is a "one way" walk, in which case, it is a very ineffective sign? It is a very poorly designed arrow, for sure.

Certainly, however, the sign belongs on the door which is not to be used because anyone who encounters the door which is to be used doesn't need to be told anything else as they are already using the correct door. "Use this door" on the correct door would certainly do no good, would serve to obstruct vision through the door, and would likely confuse someone posting here. ("Why did they put that sign there? That's silly," etc.)

So there's no question that the sign is on the correct door, but the correct wording and arrow placement for this particular situation are clearly in hot debate.

I usually just unlock the locked door.

(I slay me.)

Posted by: Bill Eccles at April 14, 2005 09:26 AM

I think people are broken, not the sign. I work at Linens N Things in Medford, OR and we have a door that also has a large sign on it (painted in large bright RED letters) that says "Emergancy Exit Only-Alarm Will Sound" and at least once a day someone will walk through it. Or they will try to open it from the outside (there are no handles on the outside)and then yell threw the glass store front "Are you open!"

For people like these I can only think of one thing to say "Here's YOUR Sign!"

Posted by: Jo at April 14, 2005 11:51 AM

I'll agree that the reason to see one door locked is wind related. I've seen it many times in places where the wind is particularly bad. On a windy day one door will be locked. If the wind is coming from the opposite direction the other door is locked.

It's more than just a matter of slamming doors--open the wrong one in the wind and the wind may yank it right out of your hand. A frail person might end up hurt that way.

Posted by: Loren Pechtel at April 17, 2005 11:57 AM

Hey Jo, I'm sorry, but who were your doors designed for? My guess is that they were made for people. And if people can't use them properly there obviously was a design mistake. For your problem there are 2 solutions:

1. We change the design of humans so that they do not (and very consistently) set off your alarm or try to use the wrong door to get in.

2. We change the design of the doors.

You tell me. Which is easier?

Posted by: Japs at April 25, 2005 10:40 AM

I'm not even going to pick on poor Japs.

Posted by: hackmiester at April 27, 2005 06:45 PM

The sign is stupid/broken. I would have grabbed both door handles and used whichever door that opened.

Posted by: Got Brain Damage but I'm not stupid. at December 4, 2005 04:01 AM

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