Just a few days from now, hundreds of thousands will gather in Washington, DC to march in protest of Donald Trump’s presidency and the threats it poses to women’s (i.e. human) and reproductive rights. Like every powerful protest, it’s sure to feature some pretty good signage. Heck, no matter where you’re marching this weekend, you’re going to want something to hold up, a message or image that resonates with others.
But what does that mean? What makes a good protest sign, and what should your goal be in making one? Should you use all caps? Should you avoid swearing? And what images and symbols are most eye-catching to those whose eye you’re looking to catch?
All this, and more answers, can be yours with the help of this handy Brokelyn guide to protest signs. We’ve rounded up a number of sign-making workshops and parties happening around the borough, and got tips from local experts (read: frequent demonstrators) on how to punch up or punch down powerfully with your protest sign.
If you don’t want to go it alone, here’s a bunch of sign-making parties in Brooklyn — plus one in Queens! — where you can brainstorm with your neighbors:
Brooklyn Public Library (Central Branch, 10 Grand Army Plz.): Jan. 18, 6-8pm in the Dweck Center lobby. Art supplies and button press provided.
Berg’n (899 Bergen st.): Jan. 18, 7-9pm. Full bar + food vendors, some materials provided. BYO additional supplies. Kids welcome.
Small City (55-C 9th St.): Jan. 19, 1-8pm. Open studio hours, sign-making materials + painter assistance. Cash donations for poster board, pizza and drinks are welcome.
Duckduck bar (161 Montrose Ave.): Jan. 19, 6-8pm. Happy hour, some materials provided. BYO posterboard + thick markers.
Stonefruit Espresso Bar + Kitchen (1058 Bedford Ave.): Jan. 20, 6-8:30pm. Some supplies provided, and BYO is encouraged. A $5 donation helps cover the cost of supplies. Beer, wine, tea and pastries will be available for purchase, and all proceeds go to NARAL, a pro-choice advocacy organization.
The Queens Museum (Flushing Meadows, Corona Park): Jan. 20, 12pm onward. Silkscreen + risograph printing, plus other media and materials provided. Finished posters offered free of charge by Interference Archive and Mobile Print Power.
So, what makes a good sign? Here’s what we gleaned from a few frequent demonstrators and skilled feminist sign-makers:
Jennifer Maravillas, one of five illustrators whose designs were selected to represent the Women’s March, agrees that basic legibility on your signage is key.
“If you aren’t artistically inclined, just use a dark color on a simple white background for the most legibility at any distance,” she offers.
Simplicity in the content isn’t bad, either.
“Statements that are simple, clear, and speak to a direct issue or issues seem to inspire chanting, which seems to be the ultimate for any saying at a march or a protest.”
To that end, Owens’ recommendations include keeping the sign personal and succinct, while avoiding glib or meta commentary.
“Last time I went to a rally at the Supreme Court, there was a girl with a sign that said ‘Ask me about my abortion.’ I’m personally not a fan of the ones that are really glib, like ‘Ugh, I can’t believe I had to make a sign about this.'”
Owens also recommends focusing on a specific issue, “to stand out from all the generic ‘FUCK TRUMP’s.”
Having trouble thinking of a rallying cry? Maravillas suggests imagining what you could hear a crowd yelling in unison. Something like “My body, my choice!” for example, is probably a better bet than “Don’t fuck with women’s reproductive rights!”
Maravillas pointed out that the NYPL has an image archive of protests throughout history that might offer some inspiration. If all else fails, you can always borrow one of the official Women’s March designs like Maravillas’ from here.
Got an idea for this Brokelyn Editor’s protest sign? Let her know on Twitter: @ahoysamantha
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