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Road sign design: Update #1

March 9, 2013

Loathe as I am to direct readers to the error-prone Daily Mail, this story about ‘baffling’ road signs caught my eye. Despite, or perhaps in spite of my experience in road sign design, I have often felt that employing abstract symbolism to rapidly convey vital information is just plain odd.

Proponents argue that all drivers are required to learn the Highway Code and thus familiarise themselves with this lexicon. However, I would argue that acquired learning whilst necessary, should be underpinned by common intuition. This would surely result in more signs being understood at conscious and sub-concious/subliminal levels. Road signs, and more importantly the design metaphors they employ should be routinely evaluated, particularly in an environment where vehicle cabins and technology mean greater driver distraction. Of course continual updating is self defeating, but minimising abstract design conventions would naturally reduce cognitive dissonance.

Maybe it’s time road sign design employed modern usability testing?

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