in Industrial Design

Battling affordances with labeling (or trying to)

Walked by the Dolce & Gabbana store in SoHo the other day and saw some serious labeling on their door handles.

Dolce & Gabbana door handles with huge signs on each handle that say PUSH

You have to wonder if at some point the doors did not have these oversized instructions on the handles, and customers were constantly trying to push the big and inviting surfaces only to be rudely informed (probably in the form of a big ‘BOINK!’) that the doors actually swing outward. After all, those big white raised surfaces simply beg to be pushed inward. So, instead of correcting the affordance of the design (e.g. replacing the big push handles with a set of thin vertical handles that communicate the need to pull), somebody decided to instead slap on a label to communicate how to open the door. Sort of like labeling a big beveled button with ‘DON’T CLICK.’ I guess the labeling will likely work ok for attentive people who can read English. But as it happens, more than a few people in NYC do not speak or read the language–especially tourists who of course come to SoHo in droves. They’ll probably wonder what the hell that text is on the door, seconds before finding their face imprinted on the glass…