1. Keep messages clear & simple

1. Keep messages clear & simple

When designing signage for public space bins keep in mind that the information conveyed to the user must allow them to make a decision in seconds. In a pilot project undertaken by York Region (see shared experience), surveyed park users indicated they spent fewer than five seconds reviewing signage on recycling and organic bins before deciding where to toss materials.  “People are in ‘thinking-fast’ frame of mind when interacting with people or objects in public spaces. This mode of thinking means that decisions are based on emotion and gut reaction, not considered thought. This limits the amount of time that a recycling station has to engage with the user.” To read the report, click here. The lesson learned is that complex messages will be ignored.

To help facilitate the “quick” decision making process, it is important to use easily recognized, standardized messages such as “Garbage”, “Recycling”, “Organics” that most of the public understand. Avoid using industry jargon, such as “commingled” or “compostable”. Even the terms “Containers” and “Fibres” can cause confusion and may be interpreted to mean boxes, textiles, or food packaging. Replacement terms such as “Bottles and Cans” and “Paper” should result in less confusion and reduce the potential for misinterpretation.

Did you know?

Some communities are replacing the term “Garbage” with “Landfill”, which acts as a stronger cue to the material’s final destination. Using signs and signals to remind people to act in a desired manner is called a prompt in community based social marketing. Community based social marketing research has shown that linking the desired action to the outcome increases the probability of getting residents to participate in diversion programs.  To read more, click here.

Signage Gallery

See samples of effective and ineffective public space signage in our signage gallery.