Why are some restroom doors so confusing?

Some restaurants get a little too cute with lavatory signage. The more urgent the situation, the greater the import that your message be clear and unambiguous.

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Just look at the restroom door at any trendy restaurant, bar, or club. When it comes to communicating the gender of a bathroom, simple signs that say “Men” and “Women” simply won’t do.

Restaurant owners (or those who design restaurants) want their restroom signs to make a statement, to say, “Hey, in addition to making the best fish tacos in the city, we know about art.”

Others restaurants may simply want their bathroom door signs to mirror the artwork in their restaurant or to fit in with the overall theme of establishment. That’s understandable, given the money they probably spent on said artwork and theme.

What I don’t understand is why you would want art to get in the way of communicating a very vital piece of information. If your customers have an urgent need (or maybe they’ve just had to much to drink), do you really want them to stop and think about which door to go through? Shouldn’t this information be as clear as possible?

Below are some examples of confusing restroom signs from the Austin area, along with some signs that do a great job communicating which restroom is which.

Ambiguous perhaps . . .

Technically, this could apply to either sex . . .

It’s the baseball cap . . .

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