Look Like Your Enemy: Create signs that confuse, astound and parody!

Picture of Look Like Your Enemy: Create signs that confuse, astound and parody!
In this instructable you will learn Design Camouflage. In past projects I have appropriated and refined various techniques to mimic government or corporate signage. Using the methods outlined in the following steps will allow you to temporarily borrow the legitimacy of a company or organization, while delivering a different message.

Like in my previous instructables, I'll be using past work as an example - a work from 2005, The Emma Goldman Institute for Anarchist Studies. In this case, the campus was in the midst of an expansion and state construction projects require signs describing the construction project and budget. The Emma Goldman Institute sign created dialogue about the priorities the school places on research and funding and had the local papers explaining the basics of anarchism for their readers at the same time.

I have also used this method on other projects like changing street signs, creating bogus products like this Soap Box, and even the signs in Ronald's Crisis.

For more inspiration see:
The Billboard Liberation Front's handy manual
California Department of Corrections

Step 1: Supplies

You'll need the following.

- tape measure
- digital camera
- printer
- appropriate substrate to print on such as:
- paper
- adhesive vinyl
- tyvek

- image editing software like GIMP or some proprietary alternative
- vector editing software like inkscape or proprietary alternative
- a healthy sized font library is helpful, but not necessary.

-http://www.osalt.com/ provides links to open source alternatives to proprietary software
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cdstudioNH12 months ago

OMG! This is so funny! Sacco and Vanzetti = Women's Studies = :D

BTW, points for being so learned on some awesome anarchists. : )

ilpug4 years ago
awesome. i like it, although i wouldnt use so much technical stufff
But wouldn't such an institution be illegal? I would think that if people wish to be anarchist thety should get together BUILD an island that floats, send it out into the ocean and be anarchist there....
just got the joke lol!
DoItOrDie5 years ago
Ah yes, everyone is equal, just some are more equal than others.  Is that it?  Your right to so-called civil disobidence is "more equal" than other's right to reach their destination in a timely manner.  Typical inflated ego.  Just because no one was killed or injured in no way excuses your actions.  You have no idea how many people were misrouted and may have even lost money or business because of your vandalism.  What plans were ruined or delayed because of you and your silly, worthless political statement.  I have no problem with the sign presented here, but the street signs were way over the line.  Remember, just because something may be legal does not make it moral or right.  Just because yiou have the right to stand on your soapbox and drone on about your pet peve, does not mean you have the right to force others to have to listen.  That's exactely what those street signs did.  Forced others into participating in your childish game.
It may be a silly and worthless political statement to you, but it's his right to exercise it!
Of course it is.  I said as much in my comment.  What is NOT his right, however, is to use public street signs as his personal playthings when exercising that right.  One person's rights end where another's begin.  Others had a right to use those signs for their intended purpose of finding their way.  His stunt infringed on their rights not to be encumbered by his capricious modifications.  Not that he cares.  Only his rights are important, after all.  And THAT is my point.
And you have no rights. Rights are an idea created by people who question as to whether they have rights at all. You have only the "rights" that the current regime says you have. But let's go by the constitution; Where on the constitution, sir, does it say that you have a right to read road signs?
slambert (author)  DoItOrDie5 years ago
No, I care. You are right. You win.
 That's a curious and wrongheaded overreaction. If you'd like to focus on stopping something truly damaging, please try to reverse something like the folks who send me letters with their company name (something like Government Processing Center) offering to get me the abstract for my deed, or to update my assessment for my house, or any of a number of things that I could do for free or for much cheaper than the fee they offer, with warnings that it must be done NOW. That's harmful. You are beset with your own inflated ego if you think a clever joke is "vandalism", even if for a street sign. It would be VERY hard to make a case that ANYONE was caused significant harm, or even lost money. Please. Go to your conservative cave and sulk, but we will not have your ilk thrashing about with claims of upside-down logic here.
I drive a fire engine for a living. I would hate to get lost driving to an emergency because a street sign was changed. If your lucky, it won't be you or someone you know that needs help.
I've been known to pull tricks like this myself, but you need to pick your target carefully.
slambert (author)  caarntedd5 years ago
did you watch the video? that's why we included the street name in the change. Also, most fireman in San Francisco can identify a major street like Bush without a sign. But point taken - be smart people.
Typical liberal maneuver.  Inject a total non-sequitur while ignoring the point.  Whether anyone was caused significant harm or not is not the main issue.  Infringing on the rights of others is.

And just who is in charge of measuring what constitutes "significant harm," anyway?  You?
slambert (author)  DoItOrDie5 years ago
maybe you two can get each other's email addresses and work this out between yourselves?
No need, I'm done.
get a life you wanker.. i reckon thats a excellent idea, and very funny..

like to see what civil disobediance you do , you toss pot
And I'm sure you could say the same thing about any quasi-distracting billboard.  You probably have ADD.

Yeah, you should get that checked.
slambert (author)  DoItOrDie5 years ago
ok, you shouldn't do that then.
From your intro:

"Look Like Your Enemy: Create signs that confuse, astound and parody!" Fine, do it on your own property, not someone else's unless authorized. But you never said this from the start, you had to be prodded. Why?

" ...to mimic government or corporate signage...", "... temporarily borrow the legitimacy of a company or organization...", Why, because you know your message is not legitimate? What legitimate company or organization will authorize this?

"...used this method on other projects like changing street signs ...", From step #1 "...will not cause any inadvertent damage or confusion...", These two statements contradict each other. Just what do you think changing street signage would do? In the least, it would cause people to drive excessive distances using more fuel and polluting the environment. Not only that, people who remove these nuisances will throw them out, further adding to pollution. Now what, smart guy?

This from Instructables Terms of Use:

We have a "be nice" comment policy. Please be positive and constructive with your comments or risk being banned from our site.

I guess this doesn't include changing large signage like street signs and billboards and causing a distraction to drivers resulting in a collision and possible deaths. This is not covered in the 1st, because this is not "...peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances".

Seeing as how you don't have a problem hijacking other peoples messages, you should not mind if I do the same, palomarjack(dot)wordpress(dot)com . Stop by any time.

Palomar Jack

 As your quote from Instructable Terms of Use indicates, that's the "comment policy." So no, it does not cover changing street signs, as they exist in the real world and not the digital realm of Instructables' comments.
slambert (author)  Palomar Jack5 years ago
Jack, read up some more. Permission was given in some cases. No car crashes or deaths were caused. This is not life or death - in more ways than one.
tmsmalley5 years ago

Didn't mean to offend, but after almost 30 years of dealing with the general public in my job, I've learned that of the tens of thousands of law abiding smart people you talk to, there are a few hundred doofuses that don't get it. I always put a disclaimer/reminder to them on my stuff that there are consequences for improper, unlawful use. Just a thought.

Thanks for the instructable. It was very entertaining and well documented!

slambert (author)  tmsmalley5 years ago
I dunno... information available online can lead to willful, unaware people doing dumb things, disclaimer or not right? I figure talking about it in smart way does a better service than a disclaimer. And that way I'm not talking down to all you smart folks in the meantime.
donhaynes5 years ago
Slambert, never mind what these people with extra-tight undies have to say, this is an awesome instructable and very funny stuff.  This isn't going to effect anyone's drive time to get to work and certainly isn't going to cost the millionaires that put the signs up any money.  And if you're commenting on this just to proudly announce your conformism and happiness at not having freedom of speech, just go check out an instructable on sitting in a cubicle.  I've never seen such a bunch of whiners in my life.
quartarian5 years ago
I saw all the negative comments so I thought I'd be nice for someone to say well done. So, well done.

And remember, Chomsky, you, and I are all in good company.
slambert (author)  quartarian5 years ago
thank you
tmsmalley5 years ago
You forgot to add "be prepared to be arrested, charged and kicked out of school for vandalism."
slambert (author)  tmsmalley5 years ago
no, that was intentionally left out. Making your own sign isn't necessarily vandalism or a crime. You can do it wrong and get arrested, sure. But, for example, I have never been arrested. The Emma Goldman sign in particular was installed with permission from the University. It took forever, but they gave me permission.

I'm respecting my readers by working with the assumption they have a level of intelligence and common sense. Because I think that's a nice, respectable place to start from.
quakefiend5 years ago
Simpler, yes, but unsustainable.  A constitutional republic has been proven to be the longest lasting, stable form of government (and giving the people, across the income spectrum, the most freedom).
slambert (author)  quakefiend5 years ago
Ok, you are right. I will change.
Not trying to get you to change, just throwing my 2 cents out there!
slambert (author)  quakefiend5 years ago
Here's my 2 cents:
one cent: I still disagree with your politics.
another cent: hashing out political philosophies in the comments on an instructables post = waste of energy.

dman7620005 years ago
 I have to ask this as I work for the crap company mentioned. Why did you choose to take a "donation" from Securitas Inc. They're so cheap they don't even donate to charities much less to educational funds. Is that supposed to be part of the joke? Pretty funny stuff though, good job on the instructable too.
slambert (author)  dman7620005 years ago
Ah funny, you are the first person to ever ask about that.  Securitas bought out the Pinkerton company. I guess you could argue that the Pinkertons were the Blackwater of their day. They were hired for union busting and killed striking workers in union battles, some claim they were responsible for the bomb related to the Haymarket Riots. Anyway, I thought this would be a nice way for them to begin to absolve themselves of past crimes.


Mexicoman7 years ago
Good instructable for beginners as well as those familiar with the applications and printing. I was once a signpainter and the techniques are valid and useful.

What I wonder about however is the usefulness or need for the deception. Perhaps I can see it in some political way, but otherwise what's it accomplish? Fun perhaps, but modifying street signs can put you in jail for a long time. I recall a case where a young man altered a street sign in a similar manner and a motorist and three pedestrians were killed when all paused to look at the altered sign. The motorist, who was distracted, ran over the pedestrians who were also distracted and didn't see the oncoming car. The young man was convicted of manslaughter and handed a twenty year sentence. Now how much fun is it?

Please do be careful with your fun and try to place yourself in the position of the other person--say, the owner of the sign who just paid a sign painter $2,000 for something expected to last six months. When you take up three of those months, you owe a thousand dollars to someone. It can be called vandalism.

Please, tell me how this is so much different than graffiti?
slambert (author)  Mexicoman7 years ago

> Perhaps I can see it in some political way, but otherwise what's it accomplish? Fun perhaps,...

Political and fun isn't enough?

Do you have any info/links on this altered sign resulting in death? Although there's research that goes both ways, quite a bit that says there is no correlation between road safety and billboards. See:
The U.S. Department of Transportation, State Department of Transportation and property/casualty insurance companies statistics on fatal accidents indicate no correlation between billboards and traffic accidents. A broad sampling of law enforcement agencies across the country found no evidence to suggest that motorvehicle accidents were caused by billboards. Property and casualty insurance companies have conducted detailed studies of traffic accident records and conclude no correlation between billboards and traffic accidents.

Anyway, for the most part, I agree, changing road signs could potentially lead someone who was, say... trying to get to the hospital, in the wrong direction. Which would be awful! Which is why I mentioned in the beginning of step 2 "make sure your change wont cause any inadvertent damage or confusion."

The difference between graffiti I'm not going into - it's too big of an area. And from the context of your question, you seem to be coming from the perspective that graffiti is 100% wrong, which I don't agree with. I suggest you read through some of those links if you're looking for insight.

This accident happened in the 1960's in my neighborhood in San Jose when I was a child. I have not looked on the Internet but it would be in public records if you care to dig.

You are citing billboards as having no correlation in traffic accidents. Look up the buzz over an advertising sign that displayed a very beautiful and nearly nude young lady in... (Texas? 1999?). I do not recall exactly when this was and I have not looked it up myself. I saw it in the newspaper. Caused a six car pile up when a trucker, while looking with some interest, wandered across the centerline striking a bus which careened into stopped cars. That stat you cite refers to legal advertising, which is governed by laws. Yours, as done, is outlawed. There is a significant difference and no relevant statistics to defend it.

You are defensive of your destruction of property--as you should be when you do something socially questionable or outright illegal. You cite examples and then attempt to additionally justify graffiti. Interesting... You seem to want to make light of political signs--as if they are fair game. OK, maybe that seems fair, but perhaps its also somewhat shortsighted... You see, it's illegal. That protects your legal signs too. If you actually have any legal signs...

The term "graffiti" was originally used by archaeologists to describe drawings and writings found on ancient buildings and monuments in Pompeii, Egypt and in the Roman catacombs. Today, graffiti is a sign of urban decay. It has become an extensive problem. Graffiti generates fear of neighborhood crime and instability. It is costly, destructive, lowers property values and sends a poor community message. It is also illegal, as is any destruction or defacing of the property of others.

The graffiti art you are possibly considering as part of the big area is sanctioned and approved and usually done by recognized local artists. We have this in Mexico also. It is often very beautiful.

That rather succinctly defines the big area of graffiti, wouldn't you agree?

I mentioned politics as it almost seems fair game to use the political sign of an opponent to display your own particular view how the world should be run--especially if you are in direct opposition. Perhaps you missed this point though--those signs belong to someone and the minimum charge for altering them would be vandalism. Some signs are very expensive and you could be charged with a much higher crime for defacing them. There is already precedent for this and folks have been jailed for defacing even mud ugly political signs. If you want to post a political statement (or any statement) what's wrong with getting your own sign? Then you could include the building, hole digging, erecting, concreting, securing, designing, evential removal, and even the legal process for acquiring a permit in your instructable. Sign vandalism may seem harmless to you, perhaps because of your youth or lack of social maturity, but to deface some commercial sign regardless of what you feel about the message, is destroying someones personal property. Those signs might even be mine, advertising the construction of a low income health center for the people of my barrio. But lets ruin them anyway--OK? Great fun, huh, defacing the work of others? Or is there some overpowering and magnificent civil purpose to this that I am missing?

I too make political signs, and I enjoy painting directly on the property of others too--just like you. It's great fun! Whoopee!!!

When I'm done, the work is beautiful, loud and arrogant--just like yours--and it makes a powerful statement. In fact, I'm ready to do a sign right now and I'm out looking for a canvas.

Mind telling me where you parked your car?
slambert (author)  Mexicoman7 years ago
I can tell by your tone that this isn't heading in a good direction, but I do want to be clear about a couple things...

> You are defensive of your destruction of property--as you should be when you do something socially questionable or outright illegal.

In all the examples I gave none involved any destruction of property (at best the street signs were temporarily covered, but there was no damage) but most involved me making new objects that mimic their official counter parts. None were, what I would call, "outright illegal". Socially questionable is subjective, so I'll give you that one.

For me this work raises larger questions about who has the right to communicate in public space. Those with money? Or the public? What is legal usually falls on the side of who has money. Sure, anyone can make a sign, as long as you can pay the thousands of dollars in rent and production costs. And even then, the company that owns the space might not like what you have to say in "public space".

I could write a lot more, but who wants to read about a complex world view the encompasses morals, the law, social control mechanisms, power, and what public space is for in a comment thread. And I have written more in other places already. Please read through those links, and here's another project you might want to look at : Light Criticism as well as the Anti-Advertising Agency site in general.

All the best,

Adlab slambert5 years ago
Hey Steve,

I think you would find these guys very interesting: http://www.prsc.org.uk/mission.htm
Stokes Croft is an area of Bristol in the UK and The People's Republic of Stokes Croft have a mission to put the right for communication and visual media in the hands of the public rather than corporations. It's a fantastic place to live with continually changing high-quality graffitti/murals that are commisioned (for free) by the owners of the buildings on which they are painted.

By the way this is just a comment and I'm not prepared to get into a big debate with anyone about the larger implications of this so (as seems to be the case with Steve's signs!) don't be surprised if I don't reply to further comments.

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