Sign Making Workshop NYC

Hand­written signs are personal, compelling inter­faces between people and the city. A sign can also be a device for inter­vening into public space or a tool for intro­ducing counter-narra­tives to the main­stream media. If we consider protest signs as a poetic medium for social engage­ment, a sign making workshop is a space to develop your message by learning from people whose views and prior­i­ties may differ.

In this workshop we will reflect on protest signage we’ve seen recently and talk about different ways to create a simple and compelling message by asking the following:

  • How do we make signs that start a dialogue instead of shouting messages in one direction?
  • What are effec­tive strate­gies for commu­ni­cating complex messages and emotions concisely?
  • Where does public demon­stra­tion have value as a polit­ical and perfor­ma­tive act?
  • How can we bring artistic practice closer to activist praxis?

Together we will go, step-by-step, through concep­tu­al­iza­tion, sketching, layout, and execu­tion, following the design process with a group discus­sion. Hands-on activ­i­ties will help you create personal protest signs that give voice to your thoughts and body to your message.

Thursday, February 16th, 2017. 7-9pm
Presented with Avant. Location at Prime Produce

Following up on Sign Making Workshop at Los Angeles Contemporary Archive, I introduced ideas about sign making and shared my enthusiasm for protesting,  First, consider is the balance between message and design. What are some effective ways of communicating with a sign? What are practical tips for making signs that are portable and don’t risk trouble with the police? We discussed the meaning of protest and ‘affordance’ (who can take a potential risk) of going into public protest. It’s important to think critically about the strategy of protest, civil disobedience and civic disobedience. We discussed the recent examples from the Black Lives Matter and Women’s March protests. We also talked about the relationship between body and architecture. How can we use signs as an effective tool to create a different kind of relationship with the city? As a large crowd, we can make a significant event, express dissent and propose alternatives. We also talked about balancing between signs that display emotions and signs that start a dialogue.

We made sketches on brown paper and talked about our ideas.

After a group discussion and feedback, we made signs on foam core boards and recycled cardboards.



It was a great evening of conversation and provocation. I’m hoping to see more pictures of the signs in use.

Recent protests in the U.S., South Korea and abroad inspired to think about the history of sign making, protests and performance art. My collaborator Christine Sun Kim organized Sign as Sound workshop in 2011 at Recess during the Occupy Wall Street protests. It was a chance to think about the concept of noise, sound and message in the public space. Christine facilitated a series of activities including a musical chair where participants had to guess the message (which they couldn’t see) using body language. I’ve also been teaching a class “Teaching as Art” at NYU, where I discuss sign making in the context of performance art, such as Suzanne Lacy who used signs as tools to address Feminist issues. You can find the lecture slides and audio recordings on this site. Sign making can be a way to engage in dialogue about political and social issues in an intimate environment.

Photo of Dedi Hubbard and Dan Phiffer in protst, 2.20.2017. Photo by Ellie Irons

Photo from Dedi Hubbard’s Instagram

More pictures 

Thanks to Sam Hart, Charles Eppley of Avant, Dan Taeyoung, Jerone Hsu of Prime Produce, as well as all the participants.