Devotees of emotionally intelligent signage (yes, both of you) will recall that the original definition of the term hinged largely on empathy. Emotionally intelligent signs were those that either:

a) empathize with the viewer and thereby improve the experience of a space (Example: A sign in a seemingly crowded museum cafeteria that reads, “Don’t worry. This line moves quickly.”); or

b) encourage empathy on the part of the viewer in order to gain compliance with a rule. (Ex: The sign at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial that reads, “Honor those served. Please stay off the grass.”)

But can signage and other graphics nudge us to empathize not just with our fellow human beings, but also with inanimate objects?

Perhaps. Check out this photo from Todd Boudreaux. Do you think people are more likely to handle this box properly than one with, say, a notice reading “This Side Up”?

19 Responses to “Emotionally intelligent signage on a box”

  1. john serpa says:

    Hello Dan,

    This is an example of motive tied to emotion. Both the word “motive” and “emotion” stem from the same Latin root, “motere”. Whether it’s to protect the contents of a package or have respect for a war memorial, organizations can flourish when their leaders take note of the fact neurology plays a huge role in garnishing a response that leads to a call to action.

    In the human brain, the amygdala houses all the circuitry that processes these sensory impulses to then cause an emotional/motivation laden response, in essence, the amygdala is the emotional intelligence computer of the human being.

    In my forth coming book, The Thrive Factor, I discuss this at length because as we dive deeper into the conceptual age, human resources, organizational development, and organizational effectiveness leaders will need to ratchet up their focus on these aspects of motivation and emotional intelligence.

    Sincerely,
    John Serpa
    Vienna, VA

  2. john serpa says:

    Hello Dan,

    This is an example of motive tied to emotion. Both the word “motive” and “emotion” stem from the same Latin root, “motere”. Whether it’s to protect the contents of a package or have respect for a war memorial, organizations can flourish when their leaders take note of the fact neurology plays a huge role in garnishing a response that leads to a call to action.

    In the human brain, the amygdala houses all the circuitry that processes these sensory impulses to then cause an emotional/motivation laden response, in essence, the amygdala is the emotional intelligence computer of the human being.

    In my forth coming book, The Thrive Factor, I discuss this at length because as we dive deeper into the conceptual age, human resources, organizational development, and organizational effectiveness leaders will need to ratchet up their focus on these aspects of motivation and emotional intelligence.

    Sincerely,

    John Serpa
    Vienna, VA

  3. Eileen says:

    For me (one of the two), what emotionally intelligent signage does most importantly is remind me that humans are involved in everything – and should be! It warms my heart to see the human touch in something that could easily be thought of as created by an automoton. It helps me think of people in less glamorous jobs as people – which I obviously should anyway.

  4. Tom Catalini says:

    Probably doesn’t so much matter if it’s an object or a human – the difference is in the receiver.

    And, I’m wondering if the seemingly rational plea “This Side Up” might in fact be an emotional plea in disguise. It’s sort of like being criticized by the object. Like being confronted with you did something wrong – are you going to fix it?

  5. When I saw that I imagined myself immediately flipping it over. It worked, and I think it would get the attention of packers and movers just as immediately as it did my own. Of course we might have a group of movers shaking their heads and chuckling for a moment first, but i’m sure that box would eventually be flipped over.

  6. Robert-Jon says:

    If the upside had a positive confirmation, yes this would really word on me. (Only negative signage cpuld cause irritation.)

  7. Jameson says:

    The “Ouch! Flip Me Over!” on this box is refreshing honest humor used to serve a very practical purpose, it very much reminds me of South West Airlines pre-flight safety demonstrations. “Ouch!” doesn’t feel like it was written by a lawyer trying to ward off liability for damaging the contents of the box. “Ouch!” seems to be saying “if you care about he contents of this box, and i hope you do, please flip me over.”

    “Ouch!” is the exact opposite of a job offer letter, where in the first sentence the welcome you aboard and in the second they remind you that “Connecticut is a at-will state”…,and we can fire you for any reason at any time.

    “Ouch!” is real and refreshing.

  8. Maja Gray says:

    Great point! I was in a parking lot yesterday in Costa Mesa, The CAMP, and every parking space had a positive cute message painted at the front of the space. For example: Tofu, Drink More Water, Good Karma, Ride Big Waves & Be Kind to People. It was such a simple positive way to reframe the chore of parking, and you couldn’t help but feel good after reading them.

  9. carolyn says:

    clever, but also depends on the english language – visual signage crosses lingual differences..obviously!

  10. Ariane says:

    It’s basically to ditch out the stereotypical emotion which is oftentimes accompanied by saying ‘yeah, I know it’s this side up’. I think it’s a way to put a cheery view of things even if it has to remind us to take precautions. As Eileen have said, humans are all involved here. Good to know that there are people who care to create these kind of stuff just to make anyone feel good.

  11. Dan, you have at least three people who love this stuff. :)
    I think part of the reason it works is because it’s unexpected and surprising, so you’ll have more people complying. If all boxes said that, perhaps not so effective?

  12. Mike Moyer says:

    Dan, it is interesting to look at from that perspective. I think the ability to listen and look from the receiver of the message dictates the labels effectiveness.

  13. Gael Lynch says:

    The two elements of surprise and humor work together so well here. The human brain grows quickly accustomed to innovation, though, thanks to all the offerings on the internet today. This, not surprisingly, has huge implications for all of us in the educational world, where surprise and delight have always been the name of the game!

  14. Dan Sundt says:

    Hi Dan,

    I thought you might enjoy this video, essentially about intelligent signage…

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hzgzim5m7oU&feature=player_embedded

    Best,

    Dan

  15. Rika says:

    Actually, Dan, there are now at least 4 of us who love emotionally intelligent signs. Because this kind of signage is not the norm, you notice it. You pay a split second more attention. This of course is a good thing when safety is involved. I like how it also creates a subtle emotional shift in the viewer, towards the positive: a smile, some empathy, consideration for the environment (built and otherwise). To me it feels like a tiny emotional unclenching. Thanks for posting these signs whenever you can. I’ll be on the lookout for them here too.

  16. Count me in as a devotee! Our middle school students created signs for our fields this year in an effort to get the team members and their parents to use the trash barrels. Like the traffic signs we installed all over Town, we’re installing some of the new signs in our signature parks. It is also a great way to encourage civic engagement! (Note: the 13 and 14 year-old boys still tend to create more violent signs, and the girls’ signs are very colorful and easier to read!)

  17. Sara says:

    Hi Dan,
    I thought I would share emotionally intelligent signage that left me angry.
    The neighbor in my apt complex put up a sign that says
    “We are watching. Please pick up after your dog.”
    I resent that sign a lot. It feels invasive and generally icky. I get that its supposed to connect and make a pet owner feel neighborly obligation but the connection was to a negative rather than positive emotion.

  18. Dale says:

    That’s what she said.

  19. Daniel,
    This is hilarious – and TRUE! I definitely believe emotional signage (did you make up that term – brilliant!) would make a difference. I’m certainly going to try that on my packaging and any other way I might need some help!
    We are emotional beings, afterall!
    Thanks for this!
    Lori

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