Stating the obvious: directional signage
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By Sophie Matthews-Paul
5 August 2011
'I'm a traveller – get me out of here'
Being a frequent flier, as well as someone who has to drive more often than she'd like, the lack of signs and displays telling me where I should be going is becoming increasingly annoying. In the car, I rely more and more on my satnav but even that's no help when a mysterious announcement appears telling me the road is closed, and no directional alternative is offered. Pedestrians also have a rough time, wandering aimlessly from one street corner to the next, and railway stations can be a confusing mish-mash of platform numbers and bewildering information that only serves to confuse.
Airports, too, are a mixed bag for providing information. Try to change terminals at Charles de Gaulle, Paris, and don't expect there to be any displays to tell you where you are or if you're dragging your hand luggage away from, instead of towards, your connecting flight. Yet do the same at Schiphol, Amsterdam, and not only are there wonderfully clear direction boards liberally stationed in sensible places but there's also an indication of how long the trek to the gate is going to take.
The responsibility for guiding hapless wanderers must be laid at the doors of those who have taken on the job of determining the need for directional signs, but one wonders sometimes at the criteria these people use and why common sense isn't allowed to prevail more frequently. Telling me a road is closed is useful, but not pointing out an alternative route is frustrating. We are all given precise and vital emergency instructions about how to exit the plane we have boarded, but it's not always simple to find the gate for that aircraft in the first place.
Perhaps there is a strange assumption that, for most of us, you only get lost once and then you'll automatically know where you're supposed to be heading if you happen to return to the same location. Some years ago, upon visiting a sign-maker I found he was busy producing a number of diversion notices which all had arrows pointing to the left. Those were the instructions he'd been given and, when questioning this curious idiosyncrasy, he was told that those obeying the new directions 'would get where they want to go – eventually'.
Today most of us don't have time to take unnecessary detours when trying to find our destinations. We're not going on a magical mystery tour; we just want to get from A to B with the minimum disruption. Missed opportunities for guiding lost souls might not make a sign-maker or display producer a fortune but useful and clear information would certainly relieve the frustrations of weary travellers.
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