Signs to Override Human Nature?
By Steve Portigal at 9:33 am, Wednesday August 23 2006

We see these in small retail all the time – handwritten signs exhorting the customer to follow some non-natural path of behavior in order to simplify the merchant-centered purchase process. Here’s a fun one, where the experience is pretty cool anyway, and the creativity and ineffectiveness of the signs is something to smile about, rather than grimace.
The setting certainly helps. In the town of Waimea, on Kauai, on your way to getting a sweet and cold treat – shave ice.

The cash register sits underneath the most awesomely diverse and interesting list of flavors. You approach the guy at the cash and of course you want to say how many you want, and what sizes, and (after having gaped open-mouthed at the display for a few minutes) the flavors.

The signs attempt to warn you off from doing that, but it’s human nature. And with each person that tries to ask for a flavor, the cash guy tells them ‘I don’t care about flavors. I just need to know what size you want.”

They are so dogged with their insistence, but they’ve designed an experience where it’s entirely natural to ask for the flavors right then. Nope.

He’ll go and get the plain shave ice (with ice cream, if you want it) and then at another counter they take your flavor order. It may end up being the same guy working the other counter, or someone else. But they don’t care about flavors, until you get to the flavor counter.

It’s not so terrible that they go through the same thing over and over again, it’s just a great example of design and human nature and the ever-present sign which purports to fix the whole thing by simply warning people what not to do!

This sign is posted behind the cashier.
1. How many Shaved would you like (ice)?
2. What are the sizes you would like?
3. Would you like ice cream on the bottom?
4. Would you like our tasty creams on the top of your ice We have Vannilla Cream And also Haupia cream (which is coconut)
5. We do also sale extras so this would be the time to ask for them
Mahalo (thank you)

The cutaway detail of the Halo Halo Shave Ice is pretty neat. Nice combination of 2D and 3D presentation of the details:
Haupia cream topping
Shave Ice
Haupia cream topping
Halo Halo
Ice cream opsional [sic] with Halo Halo

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2 Responses to “Signs to Override Human Nature?”

    There was once this place where you could get a pretty decent sandwich in Mountain View. You getting that sandwich had a lot to do with following rules; had to know what you wanted, in a particular order, no delays. etc. otherwise to the back of line with you. The whiteboard with the rules was pretty utilitarian tho, no fancy graphics or colors really.

    Big difference–the rules sorta made sense. Start with bread, then spreads & filling then work your way to condiments. Basically followed the construction of the sandwich.

    All fun & games too.

    Comment by gavin 08.23.06 @ 3:07 pm

    There was an ice cream place (Double Rainbow?) near the tracks on Castro in Mountain View that had a really strange series of signs to try and direct traffic and ordering flow. It was completely not natural. I suppose your sandwich place did a lot with regulars, who might learn the “rules” over time. I doubt this heavy tourist traffic is in Waimea is going to learn that stuff though.

    Comment by Steve Portigal 08.23.06 @ 3:12 pm