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May 27, 2006 12:03 AM

Broken: To restaurant/toilets sign

Sign012Alan Clarke writes in:

I came across this sign while I was attending a software design methodology course at an IBM building in London.

After wondering several times why each time I tried to go to the toilets I ended up in the restaurant, I looked carefully at the sign.

As you can see, the sign system is of a modular design. One sign would work fine. Two clearly doesn't. With three or more, the system would probably start working again.

After I took the photo, I watched people make their decisions for a while. I saw that at least 70% turned the wrong way, even after having gone the wrong way once before.


what were you supposed to be doing during the time you stalked these misdirected people?

Posted by: gmangw at May 27, 2006 12:32 AM

heh. those people seem to be broken. but knowing that sign, it's understandable...

Posted by: riblet15 at May 27, 2006 01:24 AM

Just shows that 70% of the people are stupid!

Posted by: Sean at May 27, 2006 01:27 AM

The signs are two seperate 'slats' so people shouldn't be confused. I never associate things with other items not on the same line, but that's just me. Apparently, the small gap between the first and second part of the sign also serves as a divider. If that were a room direction sign in front of a elevator landing in a hotel, i'd understand it more than some fancier looking ones that i've seen. Unless, of course, the number range overlaps.

Posted by: Trent Chernecki at May 27, 2006 04:28 AM

This is a classic signage error. While it is true that the correct arrow is on the same slat as the destination, most people don't spend long enough studying a sign to determine that.

Especially if you are badly in need of a bathroom.

There is a similarly configured sign at the Busch Gardens theme park in Williamsburg, Virginia. Except, theirs says "mens" and "womens" and the doors are not otherwise labled. I wondered how many people had made a critical error there in haste to relieve themselves. . . .

Posted by: Ryan at May 27, 2006 06:44 AM

People tend to associate words and symbols that are closer together. As an example, see This Post

Posted by: Josh Zerin at May 27, 2006 12:57 PM

Signage that is misunderstood by 70% of its users is broken, period. Signs are supposed to provide small, critical pieces of information quickly, and in a form that is quickly comprehended. A sign that does not do this is broken. You should not have to think about how to "relate" to the dsign of the sign in order to comprehend it.

This sign is broken.

Now, let me propose how to fix it:

Put the arrows on the same side of each slat. How difficult would that be to do? It would eliminate the ambiguity, and I bet comprehension would go from 70%. Not only that, but it would not break the sign's modularity.

Posted by: Glenn Lasher at May 27, 2006 04:07 PM

As far as I can tell the best way to fix it would be this:

Just one line, no confusion.

Posted by: Alcas at May 28, 2006 09:50 AM

I wonder if they forgot to frame the signs apart from each other. That would make sense. Ultimately, it's still BROKEN!!!

Posted by: Another guy named Alex B. at May 28, 2006 12:22 PM

NOT Broken....

Just walk to wherever the arrow leads you to.. if you read from top down and end up in the restaurant instead of the toilets just assume that they are ultra modern bathrooms and squat in the middle of the room and do your business(or find a corner if you are male and have to pee..) and if you end up in the bathrooms instead of the restaurant.. well.. go to a stall knock on the door and call out your order and say you will be having some of the complimentary lemonaid from the bowl in the meanwhile...see how it all works out?

Posted by: Just Another Moron at May 28, 2006 04:29 PM

Proof that the British are not always smarter than Americans.

Posted by: jrk at May 28, 2006 09:32 PM

That *IS* a stupid sign. Just to be clear, are the toilets to be the left?

Posted by: Steven Fisher at May 29, 2006 12:00 AM

Not broken.

Why would they put one arrow above the word and the other arrow below the word? That would make no sense at all.

It's clearly toilets to the left, restaurant to the right. I had to sit and stare at it for a while to figure out why someone would interpret it differently.

Posted by: Nat at May 30, 2006 12:30 PM

I don't see this sign as broken. In fact, it took me a minute to figure out what was wrong. I immediately saw that the toilet was to the left and that the restaurant was to the right.

However, I do understand how there could be some confusion. I think it would make more sense if the sign was not so large (for the words) and was rearranged like this:


I also think that they should remain on separate slats (as they are) but on a darker background to add contrast and eliminate confusion.

Posted by: Marie at May 30, 2006 02:17 PM

Yeah, broken, but we've had this type of brokenness discussed here many times already. With finding Hotel rooms and parking spaces, this type of sign error is rampant. Next time, Just ignore the signs and ask some other idiot wandering around.

Posted by: American Idiot at May 30, 2006 03:29 PM

"Signage that is misunderstood by 70% of its users is broken, period." Sinage that is misunderstood by 5% of its users is broken peroid! How hard is it to arrange a word and an arrow so you know which out of the vast multitute of choices to make to to go the freakin can!

Posted by: no one at June 2, 2006 10:47 PM

solution: place the words in the center!

+customer experience since there is no need to look from left to right to see all entries, just in the center.

Posted by: alexander at June 19, 2006 02:56 PM

Is the food there really *that* bad?

Posted by: lost_the_dongle at July 1, 2006 12:46 AM

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