The British Road Sign

Is there a better example of human-centered design than the road sign?  The Design Museum has recently added the UK road sign design to its collection recognising it as a classic.

The standardisation and consistency of design means that we all understand them

They are remarkably effective at transmitting the necessary information in the often short time that a driver had before they pass it.

The brilliance, when the design was first developed in the 1950s, was recognising that the designers need to understand people and how they would process the information.  The research around reading distances and clarity hadn’t been done, so the design had to be developed by trial and error…but critically informed by prototyping and testing.  They recognised, for example, that the mix of upper and lower case was critical in readability.

Ultimately they have succeeded as a design to the extent that we no longer notice their quality and therefore have hardly changed over the years. As long as they are put in the right place which is another story.



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