Stupid Icons

I've noticed a recent trend where manufacturers prefer to place icons on their devices rather than explain how to use them in intelligible instruction manuals. There is some justification for this trend, since many devices are sold without any instructions. This seems to be a function of the dealers, who often remove the instructions rather than pass them on to the buyer. The problem with icons is that they oversimplify things - as if a superficial explanation constitutes instruction. This may work in Europe where the icons dominate, languages vary, and the lawyer crisis isn't as bad as it is here in the States, but we have our own foolishness as well. Here are some of my favorite stupid icons:

Reading is Dangerous icon

Reading is Dangerous

There has to be a better way to say "read instructions" than to combine a picture of a book with the international danger icon.

After I started ridiculing this icon, Petzl changed the "!" to an "i," which changed the danger icon to an information icon.

Sieg Heil icon

Sieg Heil

Heil Hitler? It scares me that some Europeans are still thinking this way.

Maybe it means "Don't turn it upside down?" Beats me.

Hair in Gears icon


Keep Your Girlfriend's
Hair out of Machinery

Although I agree with the idea, none of my devices have gears. I suppose that solves the problem.

Catching Arrows icon

Don't Catch Arrows or else Your Fingers Will Glow

This is a puzzle. Don't catch arrows or else your fingers will glow? That interpretation is to stupid to contemplate. Perhaps it means "Don't wear gloves?" If so, I don't always agree. "Do wear gloves?" I don't always agree with that one, either. A bit ambiguous, I think. Perhaps this one should be ignored??

Throw It in the Lake icon

Throw It in the Lake!

What could this possibly mean if it isn't "throw it in the lake?" Why would a manufacturer choose to use this icon?

I think it means, "this rigging method will allow you to release from rappel and fall into the awaiting water." Seriously.

How to Open Instructions iccon

How to open these instructions


Stupidity can only go so far.

In the interest of avoiding providing useful information, some companies use the following icons as substitutes for intelligible instructions:

Circle Icon


Don't you have a clue? Just a circle?? What does it mean??? Where is my secret decoder ring????

(Accessory rope or dynamic rope, or something….)

Circle with a dot inside

Circle with a dot inside

How could any intelligent person not know this? After all, this is obvious! No explanation needed!! It doesn't matter what language you speak, this says it all!!!

(Semistatic rope. I think. Maybe.)

Single Rope icon

EN 892

I got one! One of what? Obviously, whatever it is.

(Single rope)

Half Rope icon

EN 892

If I have two of these, do I get a one?

(Half rope. What is half a rope? Not good enough to trust alone.)

Twin Rope icon

EN 892

Not infinity, a Hopf link? No, not that Hopf, the topology Hopf.

(Twin rope. One of these isn't enough.)