Sign of the times

If you can’t remember the last time you read a book, don’t worry: you’re not alone. Whichever way you look, the reality is that reading across the developed world has been on a steady decline across the last 40 years. It’s a phenomenon that’s been with us since the mass popularity of TV, and it’s a decline that has accelerated with the growth of online. Only 16% of web users read every word on a screen, while website designers have found that using bullets increases reading by 50%, and halving text has a similar positive impact on message penetration.

In short, people are generally reading a lot less, and that means two things: one, if we’re to communicate with them effectively we must make every word that we do use count, and two, because people are more used to eye-grabbing salient information we can learn from online to communicate visually as well as verbally.

When these thoughts are applied to driving, it’s even more important that we get this right. After all, when we’re driving, the case must be that our brains see signs, compute their meaning, and instruct us to take action – almost instantaneously.

So, when we’re helping people park cars, we need to find ways of making sure that drivers buy into what we’re communicating quickly, easily and with no room for misinterpretation. And, if we can do all that and put a smile on their faces, we’re doing an awesome job.


Here’s a great example where bright, fun painting makes it easy to get round a car-park, while undoubtedly making a driver feel good about the space.

Go to the next step, and it’s possible to use car-parking signs to challenge behaviours and thinking – while introducing a degree of humour into the process. Two examples here – both US signs, and both attempting to manage parking violations, but in a slightly different way.


The disabled sign is interesting; the smaller sign highlights the fine, but the main sign provokes drivers who might use the parking space thoughtlessly to reconsider their actions. The library sign is cute, as it reinforces a likely self-image of library users – clever, but mild mannered!

While it’s important that the terms and conditions that apply to a car park are clear and visible to drivers, perhaps the use of short, humorous or thought-provoking messages could play a greater role in car park communication. This could help ensure greater and more willing levels of compliance, which are, after all, the building blocks of customer loyalty and advocacy.