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How Would You Turn This Dial To Make The Freezer Colder

Imagine you own an ice cream shop and the thermostat on your dipping cabinet, which is the freezer ice cream is dipped (scooped) out of, is set to 4, which is too warm, and you want to make the freezer colder. Are you setting this dial to 3 or to 5 to make the freezer colder? I asked the Gracie’s followers on Instagram earlier this year and there was lots of discussion. Comment below with your answer unless you already follow Gracie’s on Instagram, in which case, zip it, buster.


Update: 7 is colder. Sorry for dragging this out so long, I’m still mad at 2006 Jason for not telling me if a plane can take off on a conveyor belt. I also forgot to tell you how the design of the thermostat for another of our freezers is even worse than the one above. It’s just a slot you turn with a Phillips screwdriver and have to guess if you’re turning it the right way. (The trick I use is to turn it when the condenser is blowing, and the direction that turns it off is “warmer.”)


Discussion  44 comments

Daniel Copeland

I like the idea of turning it clockwise following the direction of the arrow to make it colder, having all the ice cream melt, calling freezer customer support, and having them explain to me that no, the arrow doesn't mean 'turn clockwise to make colder', it actually means 'these numbers over here are the ones that make it colder', me replying 'okay thanks', hanging up the phone, then exploding like treetrunks on adventure time

Jordan D

3, since it would be too counterintuitive for higher number to represent a lower temperature. But it's the direction of the arrow that makes this confusing - it seems to imply that you turn the dial to the right for a colder temp (and to a higher number), but I think the intent is to imply that the numbers to the right lead to a lower temp. Definitely an example of confusing design, and I hope the ice cream survived the confusion🍦

Timothy C Truxell

I'd say 3, since that is the way that the arrow is pointing while saying colder (though the numbers are counterintuitive)

Jesse R.

If that's the case I definitely would have melted my ice cream because I interpreted the arrow as indicating which way to turn the dial. As for the number - I have no idea if a higher number means "cool this more please" or "higher temperature". Whatever I did I would do it with a complete lack of confidence.

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David Greenfield

i have a chest freezer with this exact design at home. I keep it in the middle, because that's cold enough, and I don't want to melt things by guessing wrong

Joe VanDeventer

When I saw the photo, and before reading comments, I was 100% certain the answer was "turn it clockwise to 5 because that's what the arrow says", thinking the increasing numbers meant "this is how hard the freezer should be working on a scale of 1 to 7". Then I came here and became incredibly confused because the "lower numbers are colder" thing makes more sense.

I think I'm sticking with my original reaction, though, because I feel like if I were the engineer who designed the freezer that's where my mind would go.

Paolo Palombo

I am with Joe on this one. Same original reaction, same opinion after reading and thinking about it.

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Ryan, Oak Park

I'm in camp "turn clockwise to 7 for coldest temp."

Tim Rappold

Feels intuitive that the arrow designates direction of rotation on a dial knob. The idea that the curved arrow somehow functions as an axis label would seem less intuitive to me--simply because it's a dial, not a graph. The higher numbers would then correspond to the higher power draw required for colder temps.

Brian Clark

My initial instinct was to turn it clockwise. Even after reading the other comments I still think it’s correct. 1-7 do not represent temperature. These are clearly “coldness units” where more is colder.

Richard Martin

I would also go with turning in the direction of the arrow for extra coldness, and with the numbers representing “units of coldness”.

But then I would expect the coldness units to start from zero, or at least 1. But they start at 3, which makes me think it’s 3°C, so higher would be warmer.

Confusing. :(

Aaron CohenMOD

I'll check tomorrow, but I think it has 2 and 1 hidden by the angle.

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Greg Hill

Is that is an arrow stamped on the metal, just below and to the right of the 4. So turning it clockwise, as the arrow suggests, also places higher and higher numbers against the arrow. And higher numbers always mean more of a thing, in this case, coldness (if the numbers were denoting temperature, they'd have actual temperatures on there, like a thermostat). Or just ignore the numbers and do what the word and arrow tell you.

Dominik Unger

I would turn it up all the way to 11 :) (my intuitive answer is thus: 5, reading the arrow as the clockwise instruction of what needs to be done)

Megan Wills

I have encountered this on my home coffee machine which also grinds coffee and found it incredibly confusing, it seems that the makers of these objects have underestimated the customers ability to behave logically. When they have a dial which is not referenced to a scale, eg. degrees fahrenheit/celsius/kelvin in your case or in my case mm size of coffee grind, this is presumably because it cannot be guaranteed to be true and thus they go for this arbitrary number, which takes quite a bit of clarification. Hope things worked out for you!

John R Burnett

Lower numbers are colder, turn to the left. This is devilry.

Jeremy Q.

I'd say turn clockwise to make it colder.. but to add another wrinkle: the post says its set to 4, a number that is about at the 2 O'clock position on the dial? The setting is not up (about 5.5) or to the right (about 3 or 3.5)? Or is the angle a bit off and the 4 is actually to the right of the dial in the middle (3 O'clock position)? It looks like there is a weird U shaped mark does that indicate the set point a bit below 4? A very simple yet confusing interface!

Aaron CohenMOD

Right, in the picture it's set to 3.75ish.

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Jason Petersen

Turn left-right-left-right in widening arcs until you feel or heard the compressor kick in. Note what direction you were turning as that happened: that direction means colder.

Jan Imgrund

My espresso grinder (Eureka Mignon) has a coarseness dial that's in the same logic but possibly even more confusing, with arrows pointing fine/coarse on the round knob. Anyhow, if the thermostat works like the grinder, you have to turn clockwise to make it colder.

Edith ZimmermanMOD

5 of course

Edith ZimmermanMOD

Oh wait somehow I read this too quickly (as in didn’t look at the photo) and didn’t see the arrow. I would therefore switch my answer and say 3, with a private hope that the knob had been misprinted, and that it should be pointing the opposite direction, and that the answer should in fact be 5.

Aaron CohenMOD

Hi Edith!

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Follow the arrow.


Based on what the arrow on knob in the gas fireplace at my old apartment meant, combined with the direction the arrow on this knob is pointing, I would say 3.

But I'm with Edith, the answer should be 5.

David Sours

Clockwise, but they could solve this problem by replacing the numbers with little thermometer symbols, each with a different level of "mercury".

David Sours

Actually, I think I've seen this, but it's one thermometer symbol on each end of the scale, with dots in between.

Aaron CohenMOD

The AC at our other store has a remote control with a snowflake symbol and a symbol for the sun and I never know if you use the snowflake to make the room colder or when it's cold outside and vice versa.

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Ben Timberlake

Are we talking yet about more clear ways to represent this? Mine is to have a big snowflake next to the 0 and a small snowflake next to the 7.

Danielle NH

I love the snowflake idea. Also, I think colder is 3! If this were my house we'd have defrosted a bunch of stuff by accident already and used a sharpie to messily mark the answer so we don't ever forget again.

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Larry Garretson

Correlative: The intermittent wiper control on my Toyota minivan (don't start, I have 3 kids), has a rate indicator graphic that is shaped like a triangle. Mere point on one end. Broad band on the other. Is the broad band end faster (more wipes) or slower (more time between wipes)? My intuition tells me one thing, but apparently the good people at Toyota see it a different way.

Aaron CohenMOD

Larry all the dads I know desperately want a mini-van. Drive it proudly.

Mike F.

This one confused me, too; fortunately for me, the braintrust at VW put increasingly larger raindrop icons instead of that wedge-shape: larger raindrop icon = more rain = higher frequency of wipes.

Which goes to the freezer, too: "bigger = more".
Bigger number = more coldness.

Daniel Copeland

Yeah I have puzzled over this also- some car companies indicate an increase in the wipe frequency, some the space between wipes. Can't believe theres not an SAE standard that covers it.

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This is just like toilet with two flushes. Does the bigger button do the bigger flush or is it the smaller flush, using a bigger target to make the more common flush easier? I'll never know so I press both. Here I would get a new freezer.

Elsa Gonsiorowski

What’s the answer?

Aaron CohenMOD

Might wait until the end of the week to answer?

David Leppik

Okay, now what’s the answer?

Lisa S.

Yeah, like seriously, what's the answer? Or is this to be a koan?

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Jason KottkeMOD

Hey folks. Aaron is busy slinging ice cream so I thought I'd finally put everyone out of their misery with the correct answer: turning the dial clockwise, towards 7, will make the freezer colder. The "colder" arrow is a label for what direction to turn the dial, not for the numbers. It is super confusing and you shouldn't feel bad if you got it wrong — the knob's designer should feel bad!

Jesse R.

Well, I guessed right, but I definitely didn't feel confident about it.

David Horn

Wait ... turning the dial *clockwise* is the direction of the arrow ... I'm confused all over again!

John Gruber

My guess, if I had encountered this freezer on my own, was correct: turn it in the direction of the arrow to make it colder. But my guess after you posted this was it was to turn it the other way, thinking it must be a trick question with a counterintuitive answer. But sheesh, what a dreadful design!

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Nick Pappas

I owned an ice cream parlor and learned that you always turn the knob clockwise for colder if the freezer has a single control knob.

Big walk-in freezers have a different sort of temperature control setup where you have to make 2 adjustments (“cut-in” and “differential”).

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