Design Short: Clarity Matters

Happy Friday, dear readers! I hope your week has been wonderful and you are ready to make the last weekend in June a great one. Today I want to share one design imperative: clarity matters! Design should be intuitive and graphic design should communicate. Sometimes, it can be a matter of safety as we can see in the example I’m sharing today.

photograph of handwritten sign for stairsSo there is a ton of construction at my library this summer, some of which necessitates using different emergency routes because our main entrance is blocked by construction. Now before we get into the part about clarity in one part of the design I want to make something else clear:

All the rest of the signage in the library for the emergency exits and routes to the emergency exits is clear, as you can see from the signage that is in the first picture near the top of the door. It uses a large, san serif type and tells everyone clearly where the emergency exit is.

So, with that out of the way, I’ll give you three guesses about what I was upset about with the signage in this first photo (and the first two guesses don’t count).

Yes, of course I was upset about the blue arrow with the scribbled writing that says “stairs down”! This was awful and it is for the emergency exit!

Now, you can say that the “stairs down” is clearly marked in the first sign, which it is, but a visual cue is useful, too. And, if we are going to do visual signage, we better darn well do it well for emergency signage.

So, what to do?

This second photograph shows you exactly what I did to correct this problem, which was super easy and should have been done in the first place.

clear, typed sign for stairsFirst, make the arrow red to match the rest of the emergency signage. If you see color, red primes us for danger and emergency. All other signs use the red and black color scheme, so this one should, too.

Second, type the words “stairs down”, in large, san-serif font so someone can actually read it! You don’t want confusion in case of emergency. Make it clear; make it big; make it centered like the other signs.

Third, replace the sign.

Easy, simple design fix for clarity when it matters.

So, what can you apply from this to your own signage designs for your library?

Make your signs clear.

Make your signs consistent.

Someday, someone’s safety might depend on it.

That’s it for the design short today. Of course we could go into how we could improve the other sign on the door, too, but that is something for another day.

I hope you have a lovely weekend, full of fun and relaxation. I’m going to the county fair so maybe I’ll find something design-related to bring back to apply to the library and to share for next time.

I’ll be back soon with more news and notes. Allons-y!