Question about warning and caution icons

Subject: Question about warning and caution icons
From: Dick Margulis <margulisd -at- comcast -dot- net>
To: TECHWR-L <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 15 Aug 2006 19:59:59 -0400

I landed a contract to do a user manual for a medical device to be used in operating rooms, ICUs, etc.

The customer provided several pages of warnings and cautions for me to drop in at the beginning of the book, and our agreement is that they're responsible for them; I'll use them for reference so I can drop copies of individual warnings and cautions into the procedures where needed. I'm not involved in editing them.

However, while I'm going to make this manual reasonably consistent with existing manuals for older products in terms of design, the client did ask for my input on ways to improve the usability of the document. The one big issue I've found so far has to do with these warnings and cautions.

At the suggestion of the company's EU distributor, they formatted warnings and cautions as follows:

There is a run-in heading (either "Warning:" or "Caution:") in bold, followed by the text of the message. To the left of each such paragraph, rather than a standard triangle icon, there is a low-res, screened image of a typographic "fist" (or "index"), that is, a hand with its forefinger extended to the right. The same fist is used for both warnings and cautions. This particular fist is taken from some very informal dingbat font; it looks like something you'd see in a 1940s comic book, frankly. That is, it does not convey gravitas in any way, shape, or form.

I'd like to recommend strongly that they move away from this convention and use standard warning and caution icons. Two questions:

1. Is there any argument you can think of for not suggesting the change? That is, is there any justification for what they're doing now?

2. Can you point me to a source for standard (IEEE??) symbols, preferably EPS, but I can deal with any format? I haven't done a hardware manual in a long time, and I'm not sure where to look. By the way, this is a black and white job, so I don't need color icons.




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