Ambiguous Visual Controls

Ambiguous Visual Controls: KEEP RED OFF LINE

By Jon Miller Updated on May 24th, 2017

Who is Red and why is it important to keep him off line? This Monday I realized that for the past 13 years I have been stepping on or over these letters on the floor in SeaTac International Airport without taking any action regarding Red and his online status.

As visual controls go this one is supremely ambiguous. It could be read as either “keep red off line” or “keep off red line” depending on whether you read text horizontally or in blocks. The silver dividing line between the two black boxes of text also facilitate this ambiguity. For the record, there is no red line anywhere in sight, which leads us back to the mystery: who is Red?

This visual control is not only ambiguous but dangerous. The positioning of the letters causes a person entering or leaving the escalator to hesitate, read and react to the visual control on the floor while still on a moving staircase.

If anyone knows the identify of Red, the reason to keep him off line, or the location of any red lines in the Seattle airports which must be avoided, please let me know.

  1. Luciano

    January 5, 2011 - 6:14 pm

    Even if it is read in “the proper manner”, the lines on the stairs are painted in yellow…

  2. Chris Nicholls

    January 6, 2011 - 2:20 am

    Hi Jon
    Happy new year and prosperous Kaizen/Gemba organisation
    I believe this is an issue with the wrong colour it surely should say keep off the yellow lines because that’s where the dangerous trapping points are on the escalator.
    Very Warm Regards

  3. David

    January 6, 2011 - 3:40 am

    Wonderful. I’ve been to SeaTac and had similar interpretation problems. Maybe the yellow lines turn RED when Red gets online or gets his fingers caught in the edges of the walk way looking for his mouse.

  4. John Santomer

    January 7, 2011 - 3:46 am

    Dear Jon,
    Even if you have the correct color specified or read the correct interpretation of the message, I beleive it would have not delivered the correct idea after all.
    I think “Avoid stepping on the yellow line” in smaller yellow fonts and probably printed on both blocks avoiding ambiguity of the silver dividing line will be more effective. It doesn’t matter if its a bit smaller, everybody would, by instinct, look where he’s walking on specially if about to step up or down a plight of stairs or escalator.

  5. Matt Wrye

    January 7, 2011 - 10:35 am

    Red is dead. He was a great comedian from southern Indiana. Oh wait, that is Red Skelton. Probably the wrong Red.

  6. Kent Bradley

    January 7, 2011 - 2:49 pm

    Great observation Jon. As a rambunctious child I recall unsuccessfully raising the following defense to an irate golf course night watchman: “But the sign clearly reads: ‘No trespassing violators will be prosecuted!'”

  7. Jon Miller

    January 7, 2011 - 2:58 pm

    Hard to imagine you were rambunctious child, Kent šŸ™‚
    Brilliant story about ambiguous golf course sign. You should have been a lawyer.

  8. Joseph 2

    January 8, 2011 - 2:14 pm

    Having looked up the terminal map for Sea-Tac ,I think the information is aimed at people who have spent to much time drinking in the “Vintage Washington Wine Bar” that is located in the main terminal. The aim of the Visual Control is to tell people that are inebriated not to walk on the Straight Red Line at the bottom of the escalator as they may be refused permission to board the aircraft .
    Having spent much of my life in airport bars I appreciate the advice.
    If it took 13 years for you to see its worthlessness then I would question its value added purpose as a Visual Control. They should sack it and take on a person who can stand and verbally inform people of the correct message. This will reduce the number of people unemployed and hence help to raise the Dow Jones from today’s level of 11674.
    As I am just going back to the pub I hope it gives a different perspective on the issue.
    Have a Great New Year and all the best for the future.

  9. Isaac

    January 10, 2011 - 4:38 pm

    I can’t imagine Kent being a rambunctious child either, lol. I’ll keep an eye on this next time I’m at Sea-tac
    What if someone is color blind?

  10. Rich Dennis

    January 13, 2011 - 1:07 pm

    That’s too funny. I’m curious to know who Red is now as well! lol

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