In our quest to keep our cities neat and orderly, our streets have become cluttered with signage prohibiting everything. No Stopping. No Parking. No Loading. No Unloading. How refreshing, then, are these official city signs which don’t really tell residents to do anything at all?
The signs are by artist Stephen Powers, who has painted many murals throughout New York City as well as the famous “A Love Letter For You” that plays out along Philly’s public transit system. Powers installed the signs himself (he’s in the blue shirt) with NYC’s Department of Transportation along the Summer Streets routes, where blocks are closed to cars three times this month.
Many cities (New York included) have added wayfinding signage to help point walkers to important landmarks and communicate distances. Although these signs don’t provide actual directions, they do have value in that they acknowledge pedestrians having a shared urban experience in a very particular way—you have to be moving slow enough to see and fully digest the joke, and then you might look around to see if anyone else got it, too. Street art sometimes strikes the same chord, but the fact that these are official, DOT-installed signs make them that much more absurd. And delightful.
Powers calls the signage an “emotional wayfinding system” which is just about the most perfect way to describe them. Cities need this kind of wayfinding, too.
If the signs particularly resonate with you, they’re available as prints.
Follow the author at @awalkerinLA
Photos by Mark Kuborn for ICY Signs