Thursday, December 19, 2013

Baffled but whose fault?

I recently bought a timer device from Clas Ohlson, the Swedish household store that's opened a branch in my town.

I have been completely defeated in my attempts to set it up. The first evening I put this down to tiredness, so I tried again in the morning.

There seem to me to be four possibilities:

  • 1. the timer is faulty
  • 2. the timer is faulty because I hurled it across the room
  • 3. the instructions are not clear
  • 4. I am too dim to understand the instructions.
My question is: am I entitled to a refund? Yes, if option 1 is true, but how do I prove it? But shouldn't I also be refunded if either option 3 or 4 is true, since the product (the switch and its instructions) are not usable by me (the customer of average intelligence). And perhaps also if option 2 is true because it is the inevitable outcome.

Have a look for yourself. I think the giveaway is the warning at the beginning.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Inconsistent scale alert

Check out the scale on this graphic from The Guardian's website. I hope they're not suggesting that 40 men are worth 60 women.

Reasons to avoid Facebook

Ageist targeted advertising. And it goes on... annuity calculator, river cruises

Sunday, December 15, 2013

More stupid questions

More stupid security questions, this time from the Transport for London Oyster card website.

I'm surprised the first question doesn't have a drop-down menu offering 'Fatso / Spotty / Dweeb / Stinker'.

When I appeared at school wearing spectacles for the first time, a rather old-fashioned teacher took to calling me 'gig lamps', but I'm not planning to share that with Oyster thanks very much.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Wednesday, December 04, 2013


Aaaaaaargh! No! No! No! Please don't tell the Apostrophe Society about this sign in the Charing Cross Hospital.

Thanks to Sallie Morris for sending me this.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Getting naked in Glasgow?

Please dispose of your pants in designated receptacles.

Why is so much market research incompetent?

Everyone now and then I get sent a questionnaire, and I try to help by responding. Today I got one from All Bar One (bar + food chain), who said I'd used their wifi recently (i.e., that's how they got my name).

These questionnaires almost always have an impossible question. In this case it was 'how often do you eat out at All Bar One'. The answer is 'never', which means all the follow-up questions are impossible. I can lie, or I can crash out.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Two signs

From Syros. Excellent flying wheelchair, and the little girl and her dad seem very cheerful. Well, I hope it's her dad.

The information design summer school remembered

We've just got back from the Information Design summer school on the island of Syros. Here's our happy band of participants, and some scenes from the course and the island. We organised it in partnership with our hosts, the University of the Aegean, and the IIID. A very memorable week.

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Hygiene factors

In the UK, restaurants are inspected for hygiene and given a sticker which, according the Food Standards Agency, they are 'encouraged to display on their door'.

You never, ever, see one of these displayed.

But you see quite a lot of these.

There doesn't seem much point in the scheme if the outcomes aren't public - or do we conclude that no sticker means they are too embarrassed to tell us their rating?

Monday, September 02, 2013

Ghost website

Clicking on a link in an old document, I accidentally discovered that our old website from around 2001 is still there, sitting on a server somewhere - not sure where exactly.

Still doing the same kind of stuff - consistent or just unimaginative? Don't answer that.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Really? That's what you think?

Heard in a meeting where we were discussing local authority forms:
"The trouble is that you keeping thinking about the users and their problems, and not about us".

Good sign writer

Thanks to Cheryl Stephens for the link to this story in the Vancouver Sun. Cheryl runs the very active and useful Plain Language Advocates LinkedIn group.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

No reply

I just made a donation online to Macmillan Cancer Care in memory of an old friend who died recently. The small print says that they'll put me on a mailing list and send me stuff, unless I write to ask them not to.

Thinking that I get enough charity mail already, I emailed them to ask them not to communicate. So I did enjoy their reply, from one of those 'no reply@' email addresses:

"Thank you very much for contacting Macmillan.  A member of the Supporter Donations team will be in touch with you within 2 working days."

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Défense de Tintin

I've heard Tintin is a little out of style these days, and not politically correct. He's definitely not welcome in this park in Paris.

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Direction of travel

Some trains on the Hong Kong metro have diagrams like this: the remaining stations on your journey light up (in this case, Mong Kok, Prince Edward and Sham Shui Po) and one set of directional arrows ripple round to show you the direction of travel. There is also a light (not in this photo) to tell you which side the doors will open at the next station. Nice one. 

Sunday, April 07, 2013

iPhoto's new goddess recognition feature

iPhoto likes to spot faces, and put a name to them. So I need to tell it this is the Goddess of Mercy from the temple at Repulse Bay, Hong Kong.

Step forward

You see this sign quite a lot in China, but it's nothing to do with the 5 year plan. At least you see it a lot if you are male, because it's found on urinals.

Showing and saying

On our recent visit to China, I kept noticing Chinese characters that seem to depict what they say. I think I'm right in saying that 'entrance' is written using characters that both look like and mean 'person' and 'gate' (literally, 'mouth', I was told).

But apparently it's just coincidence that the first character below looks like a toilet...

Here's the corresponding icon for Exit. Almost a new ideogram in itself.

You know where you are on the Great Wall of China

And some things you can't do in Beijing

More things you can't do in Hong Kong