I spend a lot of time at the gym. I use my locker a few times every visit, and I’m bummed by how poorly designed they are.

I usually have to try 3 or 4 lockers (they have built in locks, so I don’t need a colored combo lock) before I find the one my code unlocks.

Usually, I just walk to whatever area I think it was and just try until it hits.

They look fancy (all stainless steel knobs and fake oak), but if someone has to try multiple times just to find their stuff, it’s poorly designed.

So what’s a better way?

Let’s back up and talk about how people’s brains work.

Right now, take out a pen and paper and write down, from when you started driving, what the year that car was made. Was it a 2000 honda, 2014 tesla, etc.

Pretty tough, right?

I am kinda sure about the year of the car I own now, much less any other car I have owned throughout my life.

But if I asked you what color they were, no sweat right?

Blue, then silver, then black. It doesn’t take half a second to get that memory back.

People just plain aren’t good with numbers.

Maybe when we had to memorize phone numbers to call people, but nowadays?


That’s why it makes no sense to have lockers that are numbered: was my locker number twelve or twenty two?

Screen Shot 2015-02-25 at 7.02.27 PM

That’s what it looks like from above. All the different lockers are numbered, and there’s three main sections (all look totally identically.)

What’s a better way?

Let’s use the example of our car’s colors to help out.

Screen Shot 2015-02-25 at 7.09.24 PM

You’re going to remember what color the carpet is (blue, red or green) and what direction you were facing when you put your stuff in your locker, but now you just have to remember another color to know exactly which locker is yours.

Instead of a number you forget, you’d probably be able to remember every single locker you’ve ever used since you joined the gym.

I know what you’re thinking: well I don’t want my gym to look like a gay pride flag!

Reasonable enough.

So to make this much more subtle, let’s just keep the carpet as the same color (it can be very subtle and will still register subconciously).

We’ll put small buttons (or better, color the knobs of each individual locker) on the lockers that look like below.

Screen Shot 2015-02-25 at 7.38.06 PM


The outside of the button will be the same color as the carpet, while the inside matches the drapes  is each individual locker’s colors.

EDIT: the best way to implement this would be to have different colored knobs, with a single stripe color around the floorboard.

You’d barely notice each of those, but to the person who’s locker it is couldn’t forget it if they tried.Screen Shot 2015-02-25 at 7.41.44 PM


Here’s the lockers that the buttons correspond to.

You might say “Well there are two reds in the green section!”

But that doesn’t matter.

People don’t forget where they were facing, they just have trouble remembering exactly which item (in this example, lockers, and in a later post, real estate).


What’s a good way to put this into practice?

Think about parking lots, and how people always get lost.

We could use the idea of how colors don’t get forgotten to design them better.

If I had a parking garage, I’d paint a big (10 feet wide) line from the entrance to the furthest parking spot. Every floor of the lot would be a different color (green for 1st, blue for 2nd, etc).

Every 10 or 15 cars would have a colored lightbulb over it. Blue, then 15 cars down green, then 15 more down red, then white.

When you are getting out of your car you’d notice the color of the floor, and see your car is 1/3 between the red and yellow lights.

When making things, ditch the numbers and stick with colors.

Until next time,