Pretty, and pretty confusing

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Escalator stop buttons at Waterloo station, London

They look pretty, in a industrial chic kind of way.

The idea is interesting—

  • Red action button in the middle,
  • Operation instruction around it—‘Push to stop’, and
  • Warning around that—‘Penalty for improper use’

And the execution is precise—the button’s radius, the width of gap around the button, and the width of ‘Push to stop’ ring appear beautifully aligned.

Every time I pass them, I get attracted to these buttons.

There’s just one problem. On every attempt, I read the message around the button as:

Penalty for push to stop improper use.

The clarity of message has been forsaken at the altar of design.

Humans don’t read in concentric circles. We definitely don’t read inside-out.

We read from left-to-right, or right-to-left, and top-to-bottom.

In an emergency, when this button would be usually used, we follow instinct—read as we usually do. Not as the designer wants us to—inside out, concentric circle at a time.

This button would be much simpler, and not much less prettier, if it just said ‘Push to stop’ up top, and ‘Penalty for improper use’ at the bottom. (My ugly sketch is below the fold)


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An easier to comprehend version of the emergency stop button

One thought on “Pretty, and pretty confusing”

  1. yeah, you are right..on first glance i read it the “wrong way” cuz that is just the most intuitive way. I’d take it even further and just have the text “push to stop” on the top part of the inside ring closest to the red button and then in a smaller font along the bottom on the outside ring, “penalty for improper use”. What is it for?

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