Doors should not need instructions

Every day, I walk into my office and head to my desk on the fourth floor. On route, I pass through a set of big, fairly heavy, double doors. On the frame is a little label that says “PULL”. I always push.

Not because I’m a rebel; I’m a civil servant, which isn’t an occupation that really lends itself to rule-breaking. I push the door because the door opens both ways.

It’s a perfectly functional door. It swings both ways with ease. There are big, robust handlebars on both sides. It’s got a huge glass panel too, so you can see if you’re about to knock someone over on the other side. These are all glaringly obvious signs that this door was designed to open in both directions. So why did they decide to waste the effort on putting that tiny instructional plaque on the doorframe?

Of course, this being an office block, there are many, many doors in the building. Many of them are identical in design to the above mentioned door, save one thing: they only go one way. So in the same building, you have doors with instructions that don’t need them and near identical doors with instructions that do. It boggles the mind.

A policy for doors

If there were such a thing as a Minister for Doors for Commercial Buildings, I would have only one policy objective: for doors to not need instructions.

I would instigate rules to dictate how all doors should operate. This is what they would be:

1. All external doors should open inwards

If a door is an entrance or exit to a building, it should open inwards, into the building, not outwards onto a pavement. No one wants an accidental door in the face whilst they’re power-walking down the road, and that’s what this prevents. It also happens to be the natural order of things — I’ve never seen a door break this rule in my life — so no need to change it.

2. All internal doors should open both ways

If a door is internal to a building, it should open both ways, save for doors which are constrained by available space or a legitimate safety concern. By default, you should be able to push or pull it to your heart’s content.

3. One-way doors should have one handle

If an internal door is constrained in the ways described above, such that the door must be a one-way door, then the door will need a handle. There should be only one handle, on the side of the door which you are required to pull. On the other side should be a metal plate, clearly signalling that you can only push the door open.

4. Doors must not have labels

“PUSH” and “PULL” signs would be unnecessary if the above rules were observed. The only scenarios where they may be acceptable would be for those with visual impairments who require braille signage.

And exhale…

Thus ends my rant about doors, and why they should be better. This is probably the most absurd thing you’re going to read today; thanks for sticking with it.