You guessed it, this is the door to an airline bathroom. The big colorful sign CLEARLY states that any form of smoking is prohibited. The confusion comes into play once you notice the ash tray built into the door wide open for anyone to use. So which way is it, no smoking or if you do here is an ashtray for you to use? Recently a man was arrested for vaping in an airline lavatory. Seeing this mixed message I can understand his confusion.
As I used the restroom many times on our flight I thought about the mixed messages we have to interpret everyday. The challenge is that most of the people communicating the message think they did it clearly so everyone could understand. Each time I read the sign then saw the ash tray built into the door I realized the airline was too cheap to buy a new door, so they simply made the sign big and colorful to make the guideline clear. No matter how big the sign the presence of an ash tray would always cause people to be confused.
It is not the responsibility of those receiving the message to have to guess or interpret the message; it is the responsibility of the sender to make sure people know exactly what the message is all about. What may seem obvious to one person may make no sense whatsoever to another. No matter how big the sign or how bold the colors, the presence of an ash tray negates it all. Actions speak louder than words. As the communicator the job is to remove confusion and make sure everyone understands and can clearly explain the message in their own words.
When in doubt, spend the money to remove any points of confusion. When in doubt over communicate the message. When in doubt check to make sure that your actions match your words. When in doubt be quiet and listen to the audience to hear what they are saying about the message and to ensure they can explain it to someone else. It may take time but removing confusion will make all the difference in knowing that the audience understands.