Informational signage gone wrong

13Mar12

While passing through one of the underground walkways that connect the various buildings in my neighborhood, I noticed a curious series of paper signs on the wall. Each sign indicated that you could reach the commuter train station by walking in the specified direction. The signs also contained the logo for some big trade show, perhaps because attendees were staying in a nearby hotel and would want to take the train to the convention center.

However, there was a problem with this seemingly helpful signage. At a minimum, the arrows were pointing the wrong way, since the fastest route to the train station involves heading in the opposite direction. Or worse, the arrows would take you to a series of doors that are labeled as going to the train station, but always seem to be locked.

No matter how you look at it, the informational signage was actually providing the wrong instructions, and probably made things worse for the trade show attendees who followed those directions. At the same time, the trade show organizers look bad by putting their name and logo on the incorrect signage.

What’s the takeaway here? If you’re going to lend your name or logo to a piece of informational signage, be sure to double check that the message on there makes sense, and actually provides some value to the viewers. After all, it’s human nature to blame the messenger. If a message is helpful, people¬†will think highly of you. But if the message ends up making things worse, say by sending them on a wild goose chase to a train station that doesn’t exist, then they’ll blame you for wasting their time.



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