Things Special: When Signs Go Wrong

Advertising. Product design. Signage. All of these things have a certain weight behind them. They set out to communicate something, and someone has spent money on making sure that they do it properly.

Which makes it all the more interesting when, for whatever reason, they don’t succeed at doing that. Here’s 10 examples I’ve documented over the years. As always, you can click for a bigger version.

1. ING loves you. And your home.

It's difficult to maintain your brand "voice" when you've got legislatively large small print undermining you.

2. New opportunities in rodent co-branding

Paradise Wildlife Park has sponsorship deals for a wide range of rodents, but I presume they tried it out with the guinea-pigs first.

3. See What They Did There

What I like about the promotional signs outside of churches is the way you can feel how much thought and pride has gone into them. And then there's this one.

4. Destiny hedges its bets

This looks to me like a classic case of a creative slogan being horribly compromised by subsequent committee decisions.

5. The Internationally Recognised Symbols for the Sins of the Fish

These pictograms actually demonstrate some impressive feats of design. Stop and consider how you would illustrate something as fundamental - yet subtle - as "Do Not Steal The Fish".

6. Follow These Simple Step By Step Instructions.

You want a theme for your PS3. You find one on the PSN service. At this point, you might imagine there would be a button you press to apply that theme. That would be too easy. Instead you must memorise a sequence of instructions, which doesn't actually appear to be given in order. And that also might be out of date.

7. You’ll Like This – Not A Lot

When attempting to purchase this toothpaste in Finland, the pharmacists actively warned us against it. I think the fact that the product has to clearly explain that you won't like it but you should keep using it anyway demonstrates all that is great about the human race. And more.

8. The Mysteries of Good Menu Design

You are an all-you-can-eat chinese buffet. You can get a great deal on red guava juice wholesale. What subtle alterations can you make to your menu to encourage people to pick it over their usual favourites? (Anecdotally, I note that this strategy is actually extremely effective).

9. Visitors Voted This Review Most Helpful

I always find it slightly strange that the DVD packaging of terrible movies seems wildly unaware of the world's collective judgement, so this is a breath of fresh air. Of course, this is a pirate DVD. Now you know why they say piracy is killing movies. Killing them with honesty.

10. Just Needs A Clearer Call To Action

I spotted this many years ago in Waterloo station. The scrolling poster board had actually got stuck in this position, and my first thought was "that estimate sounds way too low."

Note for pedants: Not all of these things are signs, nor do they all match the description I gave at the start. Sorry about that. As some form of compensation, I offer you this closing bracket that you can mentally pair off against an unclosed one you were irritated by elsewhere on the internet).