Thursday, February 13, 2003

Bad Ergonomics: The Double Negative

Bad Ergonomics: The Double Negative
[人因工程 ]

Bad Ergonomics: The Double Negative

In Czech 'Bez poplatku' means 'without toll'. The above sign indicates a toll road.

Editor's Comments:

If you were seeking proof that "ergonomics" is not just about "anatomically correct design", here it is. The "Man Machine Interface" includes all sorts of ways for humans to interact with human artifacts beyond the tactile. Gripping an automobile steering wheel is one way of interfacing with a machine, but hardly the only way. Merely reading the engine RPMs off an automobile tachometer also qualifies as interfacing with a machine. One need not actually touch a machine to interface with it. Therefore any defect that creates difficulty for users of technology qualifies as bad ergonomics, even a hard to read instrument gauge, even bad grammar on a road sign, such as a double negative.

Fiascoes like this occur when people in positions of authority forfeit their responsibilities. Clearly it was not a matter of cost. The only cost item here was paint for the letters on the sign. The text in the road sign read "Toll Free". The diagonal red slash painted across the text was some faceless bureaucrat's way of saying "NOT Toll Free". Apparently the mental effort needed to pause, clear his mind, and come to the realization the sign ought to simply read "TOLL ROAD" required too much initiative on his part.

-- Bevin Chu

Explanation: Bad Ergonomics: The Double Negative
Illustration: The Double Negative
Author: Dick de Waard
Affiliation: Human Factors and Ergonomics Society Europe Chapter
Publication Date: 1998-1999
Original Language: English
Editor: Bevin Chu, Registered Architect

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