Katherine Vasser    


Portfolio: Prescription Labels (Spring 2010)  
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Faculty Advisor: Dr. Kritina Holden, PhD    

Prescription Labels


To use human factors assessment methods to redesign prescription labels to mitigate risks for error, especially those associated with taking the wrong medication, taking someone else’s medication, using the incorrect dosing route, or interacting drugs.


First researched common errors related to prescription drugs with the American Association of Poison Control Centers Report. Then surveyed users to get their demographic information, opinions of label readability, and feedback on whether they have personally made any of the errors of interest. Afterwards, created a Hierarchical Task Analysis, and used it with user feedback to create two prototypes of labels with increased text size and different layouts and orientations. Finally tested the prototypes with users, using individual and group interviews and surveys to assess how well people can get information they need (e.g. warnings), and how easy or difficult it is for them to obtain the information from the labels.


Found things that work on current label and each prototype label. Many participants preferred the prototype with the horizontal layout because they liked the way they needed to roll the bottle to view information. They also liked the way that the vertical prototype had a lot of room for information, but it was difficult to twist the bottle around to view information. They also liked highlighting on the original label. Also found that a lot of work needs to be done to understand what information is important to users in order to prioritize the space in order to communicate that information.


  • Difficulty with text size and layout of current labels means users overlook information
  • Information sought: medication instructions, dosage, and warnings
  • Information ignored: doctor’s information, pharmacy information, and other numbers
  • Inadvertent consumption of alcohol
  • Absence of information about interaction with other substances (e.g. vitamins)
  • Re-evaluate which information is important to patients and standardize information (FDA)
  • Eliminate unnecessary information; move less important information to insert or less visible location
  • Increase area of label to accommodate larger text size
  • Medical professionals should take more time to ensure that patients understand risks associated with medications
  • Add patient’s name to top of bottle
  • Highlight important sections


  Tested Designs
  Current Label
Current Label  


  • Highlighting draws eyes to important information


  • Highlighting reduces contrast, can make text difficult to read
  • Layout is disorganized
  • Extra information included
  • Instructions are unclear
  • Text can be difficult to read
  • All capital letters difficult to read

  Vertical Prototype Label
Vertical Prototype Label  


  • Information organized; more important at top
  • Layout seems to give more room for information


  • When wrapped around bottle, users have to turn bottle sideways back and forth
  • Need to swap patient medication names
  • Missing pill descriptions

  Tested Designs
  (placed sideways on bottle)
Current Label


  • Can read bottle left to right without turning bottle
  • Order of information was in order some users want to learn about it
  • Large text size


  • Missing description of pill
  • Difficult to read label if bottle is standing up, and would roll if laid sideways
  • Can be difficult to tell where information begins; should be cued with a thick line to differentiate between bottom and top of information
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