Last night I was at a new restaurant. I got up to use the restroom, and, well, it wasn’t that easy. A quick glance should tell me which door to choose. An "M" would be nice. Or even that little Weeble guy with the legs (ladies, you apparently self-identify when you see a skirt).
Why does anyone feel the need to be clever at this already awkward moment? I had to look closely at both signs. Twice! Each sign was a picture of an old person sitting in a chair overlooking a mountain range. The old people were very small, and it took me 2 full looks to determine which was the man. I mean, come on! Every person at my table had the same experience. Believe me, when you are staring at the door of the ladies room, and someone walks out…well, you feel pretty stupid.
Here’s the thing: Signs have one function. Relay information to me so clearly that I do not need to think.
That’s it. An "M" or a Weeble guy. No mountain range self actualization portraits, no "buckaroos and buckarettes," no sex symbol Prince-like things. Please. Just make this easy.
** Note that I’m not saying you cannot have style and still be clear. Kathy Sierra points out a great bathroom sign here. From an airport! If an airport can do it…
Mike, you hit it dead on. I’ve had similar experiences and it makes you realize the importance of good signage. The only thing more awkward than staring at that door to the ladies room is actually getting it confused for the men’s and walking in (trust me, I’ve done it). Make sure the sign does its trusted job and then you can consider cleverness. Else, you have a shrieking mess on your hands.