Children’s misinterpretation of today’s designs : a case study of how children interpret the registered safety signs

Kin Wai Michael Siu, Y.L. Wong, M.S. Lam, A.W.Y. Ng

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review


Safety signs are currently created by adult designers through a designer-centered process. It is questionable whether children are able to interpret and understand these signs correctly, even if they are exposed to the signs in locations designated for children, such as playgrounds and schools. Children may be unable to understand pictograms designed by adults, as discrepancies exist between children’s and adults’ cognitive abilities, developmental levels and information needs. Consequently, a study was conducted to understand how children interpret ― understand and misunderstand ― safety sign designs created by adult designers. Sixty-five primary school children from P-2 to P-6 in three Hong Kong schools were asked to interpret 12 safety signs. The children were not able to understand some of the signs and interpreted them incorrectly. Based on the children’s responses, this paper advocates that participatory design with children is important for adult designers to develop better designs.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)61-73
Number of pages13
JournalInternational journal of creativity & problem solving
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • Children
  • Misinterpretation
  • Safety sign
  • Participatory design

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