Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Ambiguous signage

Faced with this sign, what would you do?

Today I saw a woman frankly baffled by it. I'm not picking on the civic centre, really I'm not, but I do happen to pass there often and their signs are just so very unconventional. 

To clarify, the building has two sets of doors on either side of this sort of corridor. On each side, one of the sets is out of order due to the weight of the glass. This sign, saying 'We are sorry - this door is not in use', is stuck on the glass next to one of the sets of doors, with an arrow pointing towards that set of doors. The question is, is that the door that's out of order, or is it the door you should use? 

The answer is (a), it's the door that is out of order. Of course it is: this door (points) is not in use. But it's really quite odd to point towards the thing that you're supposed to be getting people to not use. Normally an arrow would direct people towards the correct door to use. This leads to a conflict between apparent meaning and expected use of arrows, and people get baffled. 

(The sign is, of course, intended to be the precise bridge between these two conditions: it should be placed on the out-of-use door, with the arrow pointing towards the door that people should use instead. It's just been the unfortunate victim of poor sign-redeployment.)

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