Exit Stage… Right?

Which way is the fire exit?

Consistency is one of the basic guiding principles of information design. This fire exit sign, which I saw in shopping mall, defies it utterly. The arrow points left but the flames and the running stickman indicate the exit is to the right.

The situation is further confused by the context. There are identical corridors on each side of the sign which is just outside of the restroom. Consider for a moment the event in which a fire really does break out. Panic ensues. Men and women rush out of the bathroom with their pants down coughing in acrid smoke and hardly seeing because they left their glasses on the flushing in the confusion. Someone glances at the sign for a split second, runs to the right and everyone else blindly follows.

Great headlines for the Guardian the next day: “Half-naked bathroom cult dies trapped in broom closet!”

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