While at the gym this past week, one of the staff members kindly informed me that I was using weights in a room where weights were not allowed. Surprised, I inquired how I was supposed to know if weights were not allowed, and if the rules had changed recently. The staff member informed me that they had put up signs about a month earlier and he pointed near the door. I promised to return the weights when I was done and he moved on. Afterward, I went to look for the sign, and I to my amazement, I found that the sign I was disobeying was a sign I had read before.

In large text, the sign says “Quiet Please.” Following in small text, the sign says “This Room is for Quiet Stretch & Workout. Weights, Plates & Dumbbells are NOT allowed in this area.”

Strangely, I had read this sign before when it had first appeared, about a month ago. If you read it, it clearly says weights are not allowed, but somehow I missed that message.

I suspect I’m not the only one who missed the message. I think the problem is the font size. When we see signs, we expect to largest text to contain the essential message, and any text with a substantially smaller font size to be supplemental and safe to ignore. The sign the posted doesn’t follow this convention, and it is probably why I didn’t mentally process the secondary information.

As much as I like innovative designs, we have to remember human nature. Unless something is sufficiently innovative that we must put aside our previous experiences, we interpret things using our past experiences. Recognizing and following convention where it exists results in things are are easier to use.