What is that sign for?

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We see this sign on all airplane toilets. What is that sign for?

For years, I thought that sign served no purpose. I haven’t really seen people wipe those basins – whenever I walk into the toilet, they are invariably wet. Besides, I don’t care if my wash basin has a few drops of water sticking to it. But could there be more to that sign? What does it say between those lines?

Look at the wording. “As a courtesy to the next passenger…”, reminds us that several other people use the toilet as well. “…may we suggest…” isn’t a sermon – it’s a request. And here’s the best part. While the sign points to the wash basin, it sets a certain standard for how clean the entire toilet ought to be. In the subtlest of ways, it hints at the cleanliness of the toilet bowl, toilet seat and the space that surrounds it. Moreover, the sign’s positioning is clever because it is usually the last thing people see before they exit.

The standard aircraft toilet was surely designed by people with deep insight into human behaviour. The light that gets brighter when the door is locked is stuff of genius. The tap lets out a fine spray, ensuring that water is conserved and does not gush out to spill on the floor.

The best way to get people to behave well is through great design and clever nudges.

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