Normative Signs: The Poetry of "Ought"

In which the author finds beauty in how people tell other people what to do.

Month: February, 2013

(un)Official Olympic Tavern?

olympic-vehiclesThis was contributed by Wayne Norman. It was taken during summer of 2012, in London. Wayne tells me the sign was a long way from any Olympic venue (but clearly a nice place for Olympic officials to stop for a pint!)olympic-vehicles2

Too Little, Too Late

in_case_of_fireThis is in the building my office is in. My thinking: in case of fire, people definitely cannot be expected to stop and read fine print.

Normative Density

Normative-densityI love the sheer density of normative messages in this bank window. “Don’t smoke. Wheelchairs are OK. You’re being watched, so behave yourself. Oh and trust us, your deposits here are insured.”

Careful, ladies…

photoThis one is on the escalator at the Fairmont Royal York (hotel) in Toronto. For those of you who don’t know it, the Royal York is a fancy hotel, the kind where events get held at which long dresses are not unlikely. That, of course, explains why the sign is needed. But it also suggests that long dresses may be sufficiently common that a sign like this may not be sufficient.

The sign is also interestingly lackadaisical. Long dresses may get caught. You know, it happens.

We love pets, but…

love-your-petsI have a soft spot for normative signs that go beyond the “do this” or “don’t do that.” This one is from a Starbucks in Toronto, and takes a friendly (damn near tender) approach to telling customers that pets are not welcome.

Proper Rowing Technique

ergometerThis is quite a different kind of normative sign. It’s a pictogram showing how to use a piece of exercise equipment, namely an ergometer (rowing machine).
I suspect there are 3 implicit messages, here.

  • Here’s how to get the most out of this exercise.
  • Here’s how not to get hurt.
  • Here’s now not to end up wanting to sue us (the gym owners or makers of the machine.)

(Photo courtesy of Sam B.)

Stop Yield

stop-yieldHere’s one I’ve never seen before. It’s from a covered parking garage in Ottawa.

What’s going on here? Is this sign self-contradictory? Or merely emphatic? Or is it a requirement that you first STOP, and then yield to, say, traffic coming from another direction? If it IS meant to imply something like the latter, how is anyone supposed to guess that?

(photo contributed by Julien Bissonnette)

No Engine Brakes

engine_brakeThis one is aimed at truckers; very few people other than truckers know what engine brakes are, anyway. Engine braking is a way of abruptly slowing a truck’s engine as a way of slowing the vehicle (sort of like shifting down). It’s loud as hell, which is why it’s forbidden in lots of residential areas.

I guess the injunction here is “don’t do something noisy, unless you really need to.”

(photo contributed by Jonas Dow)

These Doors are Closed

closed“Paging Dr Obvious! Paging Dr Obvious!” (thanks to NW for this one)