When someone uses a sentence like, “No-one saw the warning signs”, they can mean many different things. Sometimes, the ‘warning signs’ they are referring to are market fluctuations before an economic reversal. On other occasions, the danger signs under discussion may have taken the form of tremors which preceded an earthquake, or physiological symptoms which signalled a decline in a patient’s medical condition.
All of the above warning signs are events to which many of us may have been blissfully unaware, unless we had the specific expertise to interpret them and realise what they meant. Unless we were a financial expert, seismologist, or doctor, these danger signs would be meaningless to us because they are not presented in a form we can easily understand.
Thus, we arrive at the challenge which faces the designers of danger labels and safety warning signs: how to make sure everyone sees, and understands, the signs relating to a particular danger, so they can take steps to protect themselves. The artists who create such signs cannot be held responsible if someone ignores the warning and suffers the consequences, but by direct and efficient communication they can at least try to persuade their audience to comply.
Most danger safety signs are brightly coloured. The reason for this is obvious: for anyone to notice the warning sign is there in the first place, it needs to stand out from its surroundings. This is less of an issue in the case of warning labels on products or other items, where there is little competition for the reader’s attention. But imagine a danger warning sign in, say, a supermarket car park. In between all the bright and attractive signs saying ‘Entrance’, ‘Exit’, ‘Leave Your Trollies Here’, ‘Cash Machines This Way’, ‘Buy-One-Get-One-Free on Toilet Rolls’, etc, getting your safety warning sign noticed is bound to be difficult.
Yellow is the standard warning colour, because small flashes of bright yellow draw people’s eyes when surrounded by softer colours. Another visually strong feature is the shape – the human brain will quickly recognize simple shapes and can be trained to make associations with them. Therefore, most safety warning labels and signs from PAT Labels Online are in the form of bright yellow triangles, sometimes with explanation panels attached. The use of triangles follows the unofficial, but widely accepted, convention which was standardized by the road sign system: rectangles for information, circles for instructions, and triangles for warning signs.
The next factor to consider is the way the information is presented on danger safety signs. Words are inefficient for this kind of communication, as they require more concentration than the casual observer is likely to afford them. Therefore, strong and simple graphics are used to make the point. Many symbols, such as those denoting flammable or electrical hazards, are so recognizable to us that we may get the message without realizing we’ve seen a danger safety sign at all.