Dark Labelling


We often talk about dark patterns of user interfaces and how as User Experience practitioners you really should design a world that does no evil and rejects these dark ideals.

But it really doesn’t help when you get situations every day around you. When even the labelling on the food you eat is subject to the similar dirty tricks.

Now I eat a good deal of salmon, I try and get it as fresh as I can, but sadly sometimes that’s only out of a can.  The other day we encountered this issue with Safcol Salmon.

Tale of Two Cans

Take the two cans of Safcol Salmon below.

Safcol Salmon two cans nearly the same, only a minor colour shade separates them

One is the standard salmon chunks in springwater (on the left), the other low quality salmon flakes in a very sweet  hawaiian dressing (on the right).

The cans look the same, even the picture on the side of the salmon meat is the same (out of shot).   The only difference is in the fine print on side describing the contents (enforceable by law), and the shade of the blue label with the text stating the flavour of the salmon.

Now consider this “hawaiian delight” is a new product to our shelves.  It was placed in the exact same shelf and location  as the springwater salmon (which was moved).   Now supermarket shelves are not randomly stacked affairs, very often their will be brands that pay for better self placement or even direct where their product has to be place.

So lets consider why was the new product placed in the same location as a popular product, with labelling that at a glance looks the same as the springwater product.

I can only guess this is to force the sale of the product on the unsuspecting hurried loyal buyers.  Running on the basis that people will not complain and with just try the new product they brought in error.

I really question why the similar shade of blue, why not purple or some such…

Still it’s a little bit of “Dark Labelling” to consider.  Something to remember when designing even simple things like a new product line.

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1 comment

  1. Hi Gary,

    Talking about truth in labelling here’s another story for you.

    Recently I walked into an Apple store and asked for a cable so I could project my iPad screen to demo some software. The store guy sold me a “Dock Connector to VGA Adaptor” which seemed to be exactly what I wanted. When I got home I was dismayed to discover that it is in fact impossible to output the iPad screen – the cable only works with a small number of apps which are built with VGA support (ie. for playing movies, slides, etc).

    I felt pretty stupid for not checking the facts first, but when I looked at Apple’s web site (http://store.apple.com/au/product/MC552ZM/A) I found that many many others had made exactly the same assumption and were similarly disappointed.

    The labelling on the package simply says “iPad Dock Connector to VGA Adaptor.” True, it doesn’t claim to do what I expected, but I reckon it would be fair for them to explain the limitations. For example, “Works with selected applications only.” It is after all a very strange limitation – every other computer/OS allows you to project the entire display with such cables. They even managed to fool their own store staff who also seemed unaware of the facts. The result of such confusion is a bunch of dissatisfied customers, as the posts on their site attest. Frankly, I would have expected better from them. I hope they’ve learned something from this – I certainly have.


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