Search this site:


August 22, 2005 12:03 AM

Broken: Hotel exit sign

Emergency1Bryan writes:

Found this emergency exit sign on the inside of the door of in my Ramayana Hotel room in Bali recently. So far so good. However, note the use of inappropriate, indeed counter-intuitive, coloring, i.e red for where to run and green for where not to run (or stay) in case of a fire.

Also, it seems to me that the "U are here" hint has no bearing at all on the sign, much less on the location of my room.

Finally, coloring the arrows to note the path to follow would have helped a lot, as you now have to look quite carefully to discern them.

Altogether quite tricky to find your way out under normal circumstances, let alone when there's a fire raging and smoke is billowing all over the place.


i cant really decide if the colors are broken, but some bright blue arrows certainly would be nice.

Posted by: gmangw at August 22, 2005 12:35 AM

_@_v - dang! not even close to being 'broken'...

Posted by: she-snailie_@_v at August 22, 2005 02:36 AM

she-snailie: You think we should put you in there while the hotel is on fire to see if it is or not? ;)

Posted by: Hoki at August 22, 2005 03:20 AM

The first thing that came to mind when I saw this was "WTF?".

Posted by: Fayth at August 22, 2005 07:24 AM

What's broken is the idea that the first time you're looking at the fire escape plan is when there's actually a fire. Please read it when you first get in and figure out where to go so that when there IS a fire, you can get out alive.

Posted by: sir_flexalot at August 22, 2005 08:05 AM

Somewhat broken -- fire escape procedures need to be MORON-PROOF. (Unless you would like to speed natural selection :) )

Posted by: Captain, that would be illogical at August 22, 2005 08:18 AM

What does the U arrow mean?

Posted by: Fuzzy at August 22, 2005 09:28 AM

This is broken because you are a moron.

Posted by: Blarf at August 22, 2005 10:31 AM

Red=stop green=go is a cultural definition, not something universal or inherent to those colors. Never ever assume that colors mean the same thing to you as they do to someone else.

The only thing broken here is Bryan's ethnocentrism.

Posted by: fluffy at August 22, 2005 01:12 PM

but someone not familiar with the Red=stop green=go would still probably assosiate red with fire for obvious reasons. And after a lifetime of traffic lights, most people viewing the sign will UNCONCIOUSLY assign those meanings to the colors when they first see them. its not about assumptions, its about how our brains work.

Posted by: gmangw at August 22, 2005 02:28 PM

Yeah, right. Stay in your room during a fire because the map colors were not to your liking. How stupid. The red blots on the map are clearly staircases, which is where you'd head if your brain was functioning.

Posted by: Blarf at August 22, 2005 02:32 PM

blarf, i hope to god u dont work for a company that makes anything i use.

Posted by: gmangw at August 22, 2005 04:07 PM

These "not brokens" confuse me. Isn't the point to improve user experience? Just because you CAN figure it out ...

Posted by: sparky at August 22, 2005 04:22 PM

Hey, at least the hotel *had* a sign! I'd bet there was more than a fair number of overseas hotels that don't!

Posted by: MRG at August 22, 2005 05:51 PM

not broken. legend explains it all, that's why they are there.

Posted by: noname at August 22, 2005 06:04 PM

sheesh. sparky gets it. no one's saying its so broken u cant use it, it could just have been done a lot better with a little extra forethought. and hey noname, maybe its for u to read, but there are always people that will have to stand there and think about it. its not yet moron-proof.

Posted by: gmangw at August 22, 2005 06:54 PM

nothing will never be "moron-proof", that's just the way it is. next...

Posted by: noname at August 22, 2005 07:55 PM

Thank you, Sparky. I've been thinking a long time of how to nicely say that to many of the people that frequent this website.

Posted by: Jesse at August 22, 2005 09:22 PM

I'm not trying to be a prick I just don't understand how this is broken. "Here's your room, here's the emergency stairs". It would not have even crossed my mind to worry about the colors or what those colors usually represent. The "U" thing I would have just ignored because it doesn't seem to mean much.

Posted by: Faolan at August 22, 2005 11:10 PM

because even tho it is easy for u, there will always be someone dumb who takes forever to figure it out. it could be better. an emergency sign especially needs to be targeted at all possible users, even someone totally wasted or totally stupid. all we ask is recongition that it could have been better, that if someone gave this a little more thought when designing it, it would be somewhat easier to use.

Posted by: gmangw at August 23, 2005 12:11 AM

_@_v - well i can just glide down the side of the building or suck up into my shell and ride out the fire if it looks like it's only gonna be a lotta smoke damage on my floor...

Posted by: she-snailie_@_v at August 23, 2005 12:50 AM

I submitted this sign because it's "broken". It's not shattered. Nor absent. That would 've been worse. It is, however, quite broken.

Those that claim that the sign is not broken aren't exactly astute. We're not talking about some user-unfriendly ketchup jar here. Emergency signs should be fool-proof, idiot-proof, moron-proof, whatever you want to call it.

And I've never seen a traffic-light where red means go and green means stop. Can we agree on this?

It's all about being intuitive, it has to be second-nature. During a fire, every second counts. You don't want to have to guess, assume, deduce, infer or reason that "it doesn't seem to mean much."

True, nothing will be 100% moron-proof. But this sign can definitely be improved upon. That was - and is - my point.

Posted by: Bryan at August 23, 2005 01:35 AM

What does a traffic light have to do with this? Red also represents emergency.

Posted by: Faolan at August 23, 2005 10:22 AM

I have a red light on my phone that means it's charging. How does that mean stop? The emergency exit signs on nearly every building I've seen are lit in red. Do they mean "Stop, don't use this door"?

I don't know what the U

Posted by: Jim King at August 23, 2005 12:09 PM

Well, it's true that red can be used for things other than "Stop" and green for things other than "Go". But when I see red and green together, I can't help but think of stop and go. Well, that, or Christmas...

Posted by: Tim at August 23, 2005 12:29 PM

Yeah, how is Red=Stop Green=Go ethnocentrism?

Perhaps assuming that everyone in the world associates red with stop etc. is, forgive me, broken, but what other connotations could someone possibly derive from Red and Green except absolutely nothing? I think it's safe to say that all Americans would associate red with stop, and if the hotel was tourist-oriented, they would too.

Posted by: Bob at August 23, 2005 03:24 PM

I'm confused. I agree that the sign has issues, but how will complaining fix that? I doubt that sign-makers from Bali check out this website that often. It might be more useful to just talk to the owner of the hotel or something.

Posted by: Contra at August 23, 2005 06:00 PM

Its more of an awareness thing, the more people notice and point out 'broken' stuff, the more companies (hopefully) realize the kind of things that cause problems, or that piss people off.

Posted by: gmangw at August 23, 2005 06:35 PM

I get what Bryan's getting at, this sign COULD be misconstrued. However, exit signs are usually red, as well as anything having to do with emergencies (including fire- extinguishers, alarms, trucks, etc.), so I think that makes okay sense. The aarows definitely need to be more obvious though.

Posted by: ambrocked at August 23, 2005 08:40 PM


Stuff that needs to be noticed tends to be bright, often red, you're right. But put red and green together in one sign and the traffic-light association is virtually automatic.

Also, exit signs are invariably green, green, green. Check out all the lit signs over emergency exits in cinemas, restaurants, all public places that by law have to have these exits. These signs are never red.

In addition, the point most nay-sayers here are missing is that this hotel caters to mostly Asians, in fact a lot of mainland Chinese, Japanese, Malaysians etc. Many of these truly do not speak one word of English, and that is not overstating it. And before Fluffy accuses me of racism or some such, let me say that I do not look down on this. It does, however, render the legend obsolete to these guests.

IOW, it really is no use saying things like "the legend states quite clearly which is which" because the legend in these non-English speaking cases is quite useless.

Which brings us back to the importance of using intuitive coloring and clear icons. Visuals count much more than language in these cases. And these visuals are broken.

Posted by: Bryan at August 24, 2005 01:18 AM


What country do you live in, here in Canada emergency exit signs are virtually always red and white. A green sign indicates an exit which can be used at any time.

Posted by: Sean P at August 24, 2005 08:57 AM

Sean, I currently travel a lot between Singapore and Europe. I used to live in South America and Australia.

To my recollection, emergency exits are green. That is to say, the lit signs over the actual exit. These signs are invariably green.

After all, it makes little sense to have a red exit sign. For one thing, red light penetrates through smoke a lot less effectively than green light.

Having said that, I'm pretty curious now to find out if there are any other countries that use red emergency signs over exits doors.

Also, check out the proportion green to red here:

Posted by: Bryan at August 24, 2005 11:49 AM

im in the US, and most of the exit signs i see are red.

Posted by: gmangw at August 24, 2005 02:18 PM

To answer the U questions, U stands for Utara which is North in English.


Posted by: Andrea AnD at August 24, 2005 03:27 PM

English AnD? I thought North in English was "NORTH" or "N"

Posted by: Sean P at August 24, 2005 07:36 PM

Sean, I think AnD means Malay/Indonesian. Although, if this really is the case, then that clinches it for me: This sign is as broken as can be.

Posted by: Bryan at August 25, 2005 02:21 AM

OK I get it now, Utara is the word in another language for the compass direction which is called North in English.

Posted by: Saen P at August 25, 2005 10:23 AM

I don't think the colors have anything to do with it. You're not gonna be thinking "red means stop" and "green means go" during an emergency situation. You're just gonna look for the words "emergency exit/stairs, etc." However, I think you do have a point about the arrows not being clear enough. I also believe they should have used other colors so as to avoid any confusion. Lastly, I don't understand why they would put the entire sign in english EXCEPT for the letter representing Utara/North?? A universal standard really should be set in place for important things such as this, not arbitrary designs.

Posted by: Adrian at August 26, 2005 12:37 AM

Yeah, Bryan. I doubt if i've ever seen a green exit sign. They're invariably red, at least in my part of America.

Posted by: Bob at August 29, 2005 11:07 AM

Adrian, you didn't get it when I posted about many, many hotel guests not being able to read any English in perfect circumstances, much less in smoky, panic-y circumstances.

The color-coding must be instinctive, intuitive.

On the same note, this is why "red" means something to declare and "green" means nothing to declare, walk on by, at customs. And there are lots of examples along this line.

Red invariably means stop, don't go there, halt, wait, danger. And green most often implies go, cross, open.

I find it baffling that exit signs are red in your knick of the wood Bob.

Posted by: Bryan at September 6, 2005 11:24 PM

The sign isn't broken, the brain reading it is.

1) it clearly states Green=Your room

2) red catches your eye so you'll see the important points right away

3) not all countries speak english...ever seen an "N" with an arrow pointing to a direction when looking at a map?


Posted by: Rob at December 13, 2005 04:00 PM


"Red=stop green=go is a cultural definition, not something universal or inherent to those colors. Never ever assume that colors mean the same thing to you as they do to someone else."

Name one place on the planet where you would stop at a green light and go at a red one...right, nowhere. Therefore, this association is indeed 'universal' to traffic lights. So it is not really such an outrageous assumption that these colors will have the same meanings in a different application. Next time, think before you speak and stop being a patronizing asshole.

Also, I don't really think this sign is broken...they were probably trying to associate the color red with an emergency, rather than to stop or go.

Posted by: MB at March 22, 2006 01:17 AM

Comments on this entry are closed

Previous Posts: