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Mind the Signs

Exit signs can be interesting plot devices, in the theater of life. On a freeway, there are generally eight shapes and sizes and exit signs. And exit signs are generally always going to be on the right-hand side of the designed exit, whether in a building or alongside a road. These rules suggest the certain ways the human mind functions, where ‘right’ predominates, and the rules of the right-handed tend to be followed in most countries around the world.

In real life, many of the signs we see are actually functions of how the mind works, regardless of better processes. An effective exit sign design now has to meet standard coding, so that people can literally be taught what to see, albeit subliminally. For example, some studies have suggested that people do subconsciously see the ubiquitous exit signs in (as an example) their own high-rise buildings, even as they cannot specifically state where it is, on a conscious level. “Design psychology” has emerged since the 1980’s as an essential part of modern life, extending its function even as people become increasingly unaware of its wide reach.

Culture, of course, can also rewire what people expect. In England, for example, one sign suggests the way to leave is ‘Way Out.’ In America, this sign would be more suggestive of the counter-culture from the 60’s.

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Posted on Wednesday, October 17th, 2007 at 10:22 am In
Exit Signs  

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