Does your company/organization communicate clearly? (lessons to learn from successes and failures in signage)
“What we’ve got here is failure to communicate.”
Cool Hand Luke, 1967
There are a lot of lessons in this article from Slate.com: The Secret Language of Signs: They’re the most useful thing you pay no attention to. Start paying attention by Julia Turner. Here’s one:
Consider Leslie Gallery Dilworth, a Philadelphia architect who took a road trip with her husband through Spain in the 1980s. Throughout the journey, they’d marveled at the simplicity of the European road signs, which were easy to use even though neither of them spoke Spanish. Upon their return to Philly, they got lost on the way from the airport to their house, when a bad set of signs directed them to a local dump. Dilworth was so struck by her own city’s inhospitality that she spent much of the next decade working with the city and local stakeholders revamping Philadelphia’s sign systems. Today, she’s the CEO of the Society for Environmental Graphic Design, the premier American professional group for sign designers.
This article contains stories about bad signs. The most tragic was the bus crash three years ago with the Bluffton University baseball bus from Bluffton, Ohio, which crashed in Atlanta, killing seven people. The accident was caused significantly by bad signage.
But it is also an article about how valuable helpful signage can be.
But, even more so, it is actually a reminder of this lesson: communication really is key to success. And a failure to communicate leads to… failure!
The clear and simple lessons are these:
#1 – Businesses, organizations, companies, governments need to be crystal clear in their communications with their citizens/customers. Ambiguity, a lack of clarity, can confuse people, harm people, and in the worst cases, even kill people.
#2 – People need to pay attention to all attempts at communication. If it is clear, follow the directions. If it is unclear, scream, and cajole, and work and think like an activist, in order to compel clearer communication.
If you ever write an article, send a memo or e-mail, design a web page, and the people reading can’t figure it out (or, it’s a hassle to figure it out – remember, people hate hassles!), then it is your fault.
I remember my experience of reading the book Waiting for Your Cat to Bark? Persuading Customers When They Ignore Marketing by Bryan and Jeffrey Eisenberg, and thought that one point they made was this: every time a customer has to figure out “what do I have to do next?” on their own, when a company fails to give clear direction, is a bad communication moment for a company.
Clear communication. Easy to figure out. No confusion. That is the goal.