Design standards for safety warning messages in manuals: increasing design saliency and adapting for a broader range of professional communication settings

Roe, Rachel
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Safety warning messages in owner's manuals act as the visible and text based warning to users to avoid potential harm or injury. These warnings include those for DANGER, WARNING, and CAUTION. Current existing standards and general design principles give recommendations to safety warning message design, but they do not discuss the implications of adapting these recommendations to a broader range of professional communication settings.

This thesis focuses on analyzing the salience of safety warning messages in owner's manuals, and ultimately creating a set of safety warning message design criteria that will be adaptable to a broader range of professional communication settings. This thesis uses two methods to examine the ways in which these warning messages are salient. The first is a literature review of current safety warning message design standards and general design principles. The second is an analysis safety warning messages from a representative sample of owner's manuals for a high-powered, high-risk product.

The results of this study suggest the design features that make safety warning messages salient in owner's manuals. The results further open future discussions of analyzing design criteria and how to create design criteria that can be adaptable to broader professional communication situations.