Why do we label objects?
- Because they’re new things, and we don’t understand how they work.
- Because the objects’ owners want to add additional information (often promotional in nature) to the object.
- Because they’re not simple enough to operate without additional instructions. When we can’t figure something out, we usually blame ourselves. More often, it’s the designer’s fault.
I think these two examples–from two different public bathrooms–definitely fall in the #3 category. First we’ve got a faucet from UBC Robson Square:
In case you can’t read it, here’s what it says:
TURN HANDLE IN COUNTERCLOCKWISE DIRECTION
FOR WARM WATER
I’m trying to imagine the circumstances that led to these signs (there’s one behind every faucet). A lot of complaints from frosty-handed MBA students? A lawsuit from a computer science professor with bad circulation? And, for the record, calling a sink a ‘basin’ is so twee.
Next we visit a different bathroom (I forget where) and find this label on the toilet fixture in a stall:
The text is like a little poem:
If sensor is blocked,
use manual flush button.
This unit features
a 3 second flush delay.
This begs all sorts of questions: why would the sensor be blocked? How would I know if it were blocked? And why do I care about the flush delay? Most importantly, why is the flush delay a ‘feature’?
Next we’ve got a tissue box with a spot for a youngster to write his or her name:
This is for really poor kids, who own so few things that their Kleenex box is precious to them.
I’m kidding. Someone pointed out that this is probably for daycares and schools, where each kid has their own tissue box, but it still struck me as a little funny.
Finally, I snapped this photo of a sign on one of the newest ships in BC Ferries’ fleet. I thought the artwork was oddly evocative.
“No High Fives Allowed.” Or maybe “Cylons Only Beyond This Point”?