Doors, doors, I hate these doors

Do your doors make you feel stupid? Well, ours do.

There are lots of good things about the South Bank WeWork office: friendly staff, free treats, beer on tap. But the doors are making fools of us all.

At least twice a day, I find myself yanking a door in a direction it doesn’t go. In my defence, it’s because there’s a handle on the side I’m meant to push. The design is telling me to do the opposite of what I’m supposed to do.

These doors* are everywhere. They’re often accompanied with 'push' or 'pull' signs, in the hope that will clear things up. (It doesn’t.)

Behavioural science tells us that we have two systems of thinking. System 1 is the brain’s fast and automatic approach, and it’s what we use for basic things like opening doors. System 2 is the brain’s slower and more analytical mode, which we use to figure out difficult maths problems or decide which sofa to buy.

So when you approach a door with a handle, System 1 automatically tells you to pull it, and this happens so fast that System 2 doesn’t even know it’s needed to read the sign until it’s too late.

But why should doors need instructions in the first place?

At Schwa, we might not be engineers or architects, but we do know about choice architecture. We know that how you present a choice to people changes the decision they make. We also know the importance of designing with humans in mind (not econs), and that’s just as important whether you’re nudging with words or door handles.

*nicknamed Norman doors after famous designer and psychologist Dom Norman.

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