I saw this sign at an airport and it gave me pause. By which I mean it literally stopped me in my tracks. This sign conveys two pieces of information:
Do not enter (indicated by a red circle with a white horizontal line)
(We’ll get to that additional message, written in pink crayon on masking tape, in a moment.)
So let me relay the chain of events in my mind when I first encountered this sign:
And then immediately below that symbol:
The messages “Do not enter” and “Exit only” are contradictory. And they are using the “do not enter” symbol as warning triangle. That’s bad content design.
Someone realized that there is a problem with the sign. Their fix was to reorder the content, by adding a hand-written “Exit only” above the “Do Not Enter” symbol. The working assumption seems to be, if you see “Exit only” first, you might ignore the contradictory message below.
But that’s not how humans work. Symbols (especially one as universally known as “Do not enter”) are generally more powerful that words. Humans who know how to drive have been trained to regard the “Do not enter” symbol as indicative of a potentially dangerous situation. Which is why I stopped in my tracks.
This sign is at an airport. Try to imagine how many people it has befuddled.
More Signs of Bad Design