Aug 31, 2011

Too Much Information

I’m a simple man. I just want to know where to go. Point me in the right direction and I’ll put one foot in front of the other and one day I’ll get there. That’s why I don’t like signs like this:

This sign is very interesting because it’s completely clear what it means and yet it’s confusing. Let’s say I want to get on Highway 101. Before I see this sign, I’m wondering which way to go. After I see this sign, I’m wondering which way to go. This sign tells me to go straight…or to the right. What does that mean, for me? I’m a man of action. What am I supposed to do? It would be fine if it said, “Go straight,” or “Go right,” but when it says, “Go straight or right,” I get a little confused because I am driving only one car and I am a bear of little brain. This isn’t like offering me vanilla or chocolate—it’s like offering me chocolate or chocolate. What kind of nonsense is that?

I know, of course, what it means. It means that the entrance is somewhere in front and to the right of me. But does knowing that I can get there in either of two ways add anything to my driving experience?

I say it detracts and confuses.

What if things were slightly different? What if the entrance was straight in front of me as the crow flies but there was some obstacle like a big building that cars must go around. In that case, should the sign look like this?

Isn’t that, um, confusing?


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