How NOT to Design Flip Labels



by Nina Simon

Published on September 13, 2010

  • Oh, Yosemite Visitor Center. You have committed the sin of using flip labels to convey false interactivity while making it harder for people to enjoy the content.

    Here is an image of three sisters who climbed Mount Lysell in 1896. How do I know that? I flipped up the image. Doing so revealed a label that described them and their feat, and prevented me from looking back and forth from them to the information without flapping my arm. This is the perfect example of an image that should be displayed with the label next to it, so you can learn about the women, see them, imagine the hike, check out their clothes, read their words, and so on.

    Instead, to make it seem as though there were fewer words on the wall and more fun things to do, they put in a flip label. This technique was repeated throughout the exhibition to comparably frustrating effect.

    Flip labels make sense when there’s a question to answer or a surprise to reveal. But they are a sorry way to sneak in more text, and they’re downright annoying when said text relates to the thing on the top side of the flip.

Latest Comments (5)

bad flip labels

by Beverly Serrell - September 22, 2010

Amen, Nina. Don’t do this!!

any research available?

by Frank Binney - September 27, 2010

On a gut level I share your opinion. However, it would be interesting to see if the flip doors you describe are any less or more effective at communicating with visitors than the traditional approach to “words on walls” at most park visitor centers.

pet peeve

by Penny Jennings - September 28, 2010

Bad flips are the worst! Why hide information, unless the point is to guess and check your answer? (e.g., what’s that smell?) I couldn’t agree with you more, thanks for posting.

Another View

by Leslie Stone - June 28, 2011

Flip panels were the best, low-cost, low-tech solution to present visual material without overwhelming the visitor with tons of labels. We had to appeal to many millions of visitors per year (all ages, languages, abilities). Everyone knows how to use them, and can choose to learn more if they want. And most do! When the image intrigues them, they flip!

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