Finishing Touches, or How to Treat Your Customers Like Idiots

My company, Vision Critical, recently held a management conference at the new Vancouver Convention Centre. The interior struck me as somewhat cold and spare but functional and nicely designed. However, there were a couple of things I encountered in the men’s washrooms that made me (and my colleagues) laugh out loud, and marvel at how a couple of ill-considered finishing touches can degrade the experience of being in a building. (It reminded me of visiting the Terasen building in Surrey a few years back: a nice design pretty much wrecked by the liberal use of the Tekton font throughout the interior.)

First, a sign posted above the urinals informs us that we shouldn’t drink from the toilets:


Of course, what they really meant to say was that they are being environmentally conscious by not wasting drinking water in the urinals and toilets. Poor writing results in raw material for a running joke in session presentations.

Then I noticed a sign by the sinks, “How To Wash Your Hands:”


I assume the intention here was to convey the importance of washing one’s hands, rather than condescend to the users of your washroom. Add to this that if someone really needed this much hand-holding, the sequence isn’t even correct: we’re told in Step 6 to turn off the tap, but Step 1 is “Wet Hands,” not “Turn On Tap.” Of course, they were motion-activated taps, so Step 6 was unnecessary. But so were the others, really. Perhaps the most important thing I’ve seen suggested elsewhere is the length of time to rub in the soap.

At least there wasn’t a “How To Use The Toilet” sign in the stalls.

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