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9 Tips For Making Great Protest Signs

I’m sure you have heard all about the March For Our Lives taking place in Washington DC this Saturday. People will be marching and carrying protest signs to demand that their lives and safety become a priority and that we end gun violence and mass shootings in our schools today.

If you can’t make it to the nation’s capitol, there are over 800 events happening around the country on the same day. To find events in your community, you can go here: https://event.marchforourlives.com/event/march-our-lives-events/search/

Regardless of where you choose to march, signs are a great way to get your message across. They can make a great visual impact and share your unique point of view.

Here are some tips to help you, from one designer to another:

Young protestors holding hand made signs

photo credit: Lorie Shaull

1. DON’T USE STICKS

If you are planning on marching and you want to take a sign, be aware that some cities may have rules about your signage. Most march organizers suggest that you don’t use sticks for your signs. For your safety and for those around you, it’s a good idea to leave the paint stirrers or dowels at home.

young protestor holding sign "save my life not your gun."

photo credit: Lorie Shaull

2. FOAM CORE IS YOUR FRIEND

You know what works best for signs? Foam core, or it can also be called FOAM BOARD. It’s white cardboard that can withstand the elements pretty well. It also stands up all on it’s own, so you don’t need any of those pesky sticks to keep it from rolling over. It’s incredibly light, so it won’t tire you out either.

young protestors holding sign calling for gun reform

photo credit: Lorie Shaull

3. WEATHER PROOF YOUR SIGN

Speaking of those elements, check the forecast for Saturday. If the area you are marching in might have rain or snow, you can quickly waterproof your sign with some layers of clear packing tape. Packing tape is also great for making handles on the back of your sign if you don’t want to hold it by the edges.

protestors holding sturdy signs ,"Are you next?" "We call B.S."

photo credit: Lorie Shaull

4. ALL SHAPES ARE WELCOME

Signs work in all sizes and shapes. You can cut your sign down to fit in a bag, so you don’t have to hold it the whole time. If you are using foam core, you can give your sign a lot of impact by using a cutting blade and making it any shape you like. It could be the shape of your state, a star, a heart, or something to add impact to the messaging of your sign. You can even add 3D paper or foam elements to your sign. Just remember to keep in mind the earlier considerations on this list.

young protestor holding sign that says "protect people not guns."

photo credit: Lorie Shaull

5. KEEP IT SIMPLE

Make your sign very readable. The best graphics are simple. You can add as much or as little as you like to your design, but the most impactful designs are bold and strong. Choosing one or two colors to work with can really set off your message. Using block letters can make your sign readable from a distance and will allow your message to reach more people.

young protestors holding homemade signs

photo credit: Lorie Shaull


6. MAKE IT PERSONAL

When choosing a message for your sign, choose something that really means something to you. While there are some great sign slogans out there, if it doesn’t seem to be authentically from you, it lessens the impact. You are marching because you want to have YOUR voice heard. This is the time to think about what this march means to you. When we speak from the heart, it is usually surprising to find that other people feel just as you do. Share your truth, because it is valid and it deserves to be heard.

young protestors holding colorful protest signs

photo credit: Lorie Shaull

7. FIND INSPIRATION

If you are having a hard time coming up with your own signs, there are a number of resources available to you. You could search for other signs that people have made. Since this march is for gun control, you could check in your favorite search engine for “gun control protest signs.” Remember even if you see a sign you like, put your own spin on it! Your point of view is unique and impactful because it’s yours and yours alone.

young protester holding sign that says "protect kids not guns"

photo credit: Lorie Shaull

8. USE GRAPHICS YOU HAVE PERMISSION TO USE

If you are really self conscious about your lettering or using your own art, you can find great free downloadable signs at places like Amplifier.org, or jointheuproar.com. Those sites are great because they encourage you to use their resources. As someone who has had their art downloaded and used for protest signs without my permission, I want to tell you that that’s not cool. If you find art that really speaks to you, please make sure you contact the artist and get their permission to use it for a protest sign. Many artists may be ok with it, especially if it’s a cause they support, so don’t hesitate to ask. But be respectful and don’t use it if they ask you not to.

 

9. DON’T FORGET TO SPELLCHECK! 

Everyone can always use a little editing help. Have a few people look over your sign to look for spelling mistakes or errors in grammar or punctuation.

 

If you end up making signs for the march on Saturday, or any time, please share them with us! If you have other helpful tips, please don’t hesitate to share those too.

All images used on this page are taken by Lorie Shaull and used under CC license.

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