It has long been recognised that the “human machine interface” is vitally important in the world of consumer electronic goods, but the rather more functional world of industrial machinery and equipment is catching up.

Traditionally, design engineers could spend weeks, months and years perfecting the new equipment, only to leave the design of the operators control panel until the last-minute.  And yet the control panel is arguably the most important component of a machine’s usability, simply because it is the one part that a human being will interact with throughout the day as they operate a machine.

Clear, and easy to use

There is a risk that design engineers, being too close to the technology they are working with, may create highly functional but non-intuitive user interfaces.  No matter how sophisticated the machine, the control panel should be clear and easy to use with minimal training.  We’ve seen it ourselves on our own shop floor – poor control panel design discourages the use of an otherwise perfectly functional machine.

Think from the operator’s perspective

With control panel design, the perspective needs to shift from that of “technology expert” to recognise the needs and skill level of the user, the most commonly used functions, the environment in which they will be operating and more.  What may seem intuitive to an expert design engineer may not be for the average user.

Some design tips…

A good control panel design probably needs to be as simple and uncluttered as possible.  A clear colour scheme, easy-to read-fonts, careful use of spacing and concise wording makes all the difference.

Keep it looking good

Many control panels have to survive some pretty challenging environments and “heavy-handed” operators. As manufacturers and suppliers of high quality graphic overlays, we can print on the underside of a PVC, polyester or polycarbonate label, making it safe from wear and tear and resulting in a more durable product, as the printed area will not wear away.

A sales tool

While your design engineers may be most proud of the technological functionally of their new machine, often the first thing a prospective buyer looks at is the control panel, as this is where they judge how functional and easy to operate it will be.  Putting that extra design time into the control panel overlay design can make all the difference.


To find out more about our graphic overlays printing service, call us on 01473 820060 or email