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Protest Sign Design – Think ergonomics! April 17, 2009

Posted by Fritz in Yachts and other things that float.
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Safe, effective, sign design

My recent experience at the West Palm Beach Tea Party on April 15th exposed me to something I had never pondered before. Ergonomic protest sign design.

I had decided several weeks before to attend the rally. While I envisioned holding a sign, I didn’t put much thought into it until the morning of the event.


(WND photo / Joe Kovacs) used w/out permission but hell, it's me!

Waiting till the last minute to make a protest sign usually means a fairly amateurish product and mine qualified there! I had some large pieces of cardboard in the garage, saved for no express purpose other than I figured I’d need them one day. Sure enough that day arrived and I now had my canvas.

The cardboard was from a shipping box.  It was a fairly heavy corrugated board so I figured it would hold up well. I drew my message on one side with a black Sharpie and was so proud of myself I decided I needed to use the back side for another message. “Yacht Brokers For Capitalism” just popped into my head so I ran with it.

protestsigncroppedThe first thing I noticed when I got to the event was the wind. Just a moderate breeze caught the sign and forced me to pay close attention. As I joined the massing throng, I also had to become aware of the amount of physical space I needed so as not to whack any of the other attendees.

It wasn’t until after about 5 minutes of proudly holding my sign high overhead that I realized the most important consideration when designing a protest sign.

How to deal with gravity.

Even a lightweight cardboard sign gets heavy over time, especially when it’s pumped high overhead in unison with the crowd’s chants du jour.

So here’s my list to consider when designing a protest sign:

  • Don’t wait till the last minute to make your sign. By starting the process sooner rather than later, you’ll give yourself time to make a better looking sign which includes utilizing both sides for maximum effect.
  • Use a suitable medium.  Buy some foamcore or PVC foam sheets. Both are excellent in the strength-to-weight category, easily drawn on and they accept glued items for fancy displays. The more rigid material also works much better when utilizing the next item.
  • Strongly consider using a pole.  I saw several clever ideas at my rally. The best was a retractable, light weight, aluminum boat washing pole. Fully collapsed it was just three feet long.  The protester stood with the butt end in his pants pocket, supporting all the weight. This allowed him to comfortably hold the sign in a natural way freeing his other arm for wild gesticulations and fist pumps! Lots of clear strapping tape kept the sign secure to the pole and didn’t mess with the message.
  • The retractable pole also allows the user to raise or lower the sign height to accommodate the crowd while not losing the luxury of the in-the-pocket anchoring system. It’s also easier to control the sign in windy conditions with the pole securely nestled in your pocket.

So go out and get involved, join the process, exercise your right to free speech.

Just do it ergonomically!