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Where did we park the car?

(Parking garage sign Dorothy facing forwards) Not long ago we parked our car in a large multi-level parking garage. A nearby sign informed us that the car was parked on level 3 in the Dorothy section. (The garage sections were marked with different Wizard of Oz characters.) Upon returning to the parking garage some time later, we went up to level 3 but didn't see the car. I started to get a terrible feeling that someone took our car. The nearby sign showed level 3 and Dorothy. But then someone noticed that Dorothy was facing backwards on the sign instead of forwards.

(Parking garage sign Dorothy facing backwards) We were in the wrong section! We needed to be in the section with Dorothy facing forwards! I bet a lot of people make the same mistake. The problem is that when you note where your car is parked you note just the minimum information you'll need to find your car. So you might just note Dorothy (or girl if you don't know that the girl is Dorothy). Which way Dorothy happens to be facing isn't usually important so you don't notice it. This is especially true if you see Dorothy in a normal orientation.

Design suggestion

Signs are supposed to provide cues more distinctive and memorable than the places that they mark. Make sure that the salient information on a sign is the information people will need to find their way. People shouldn't have to see a whole set of signs to know what information is salient.

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