Sign Types

So you want to make a protest sign. Awesome! What kind of sign should you make?

This is perhaps too large of a sign for this protest. Maybe.

One using your Awesome Science Poster-Making Skills, of course! (This is going to be the Best Conference Ever.) But what kind of media should you use?

  • 8.5″ x 11″ or A4 paper? Too small. Do it if you have to, but there are better options. Also, laminate, laminate, laminate – it could easily be raining on the day of the march.
  • 11″ x 17″ or A3 paper? Now we’re talking. You can get a few words on this and still have people read it from a distance. Again: Laminate. This is your best low-budget option.
  • 36″ x 48″ or A0 paper? This is pretty big. You can get a lot on here, even with a large font size. Getting this professionally printed is basically a must, and lamination will be impossible, so check with the printer about weather-safe options. Also, you might not be able to hold it up all day. Some cities (e.g. Boston) banned “signs on sticks or poles” for the Women’s March, so don’t bet on strapping these to meter sticks for easy carrying.
  • Tri-fold posters? No. This is not a science fair. Also, you do not want to carry this in the brisk April wind.
  • Flexible Media? Vinyl! Cloth! There are a lot of great options here, and you can even make it into a cape to wear on your back. And speaking of vinyl…
  • Banners? Oh, yes indeed. You can get a vinyl banner 2.5 feet tall and 10 feet wide for about $50. So worth it. Waterproof, durable, bright.
  • Custom Helium Balloons? Hey, you don’t have to hold them up. If you have a ready supply of helium, you can get 200 custom latex balloons for $100, or a single custom mylar balloon for about $20. Do remember that most of these will turn into litter, though.
  • A Kite? Too much risk of dive-bombing the crowd. But points for inventiveness!

Edited to add some DIY items by popular demand:

  • Cardboard? The substrate of choice for the cost-conscious scientist. Break down a box, get some Sharpies (or equivalent), and go to town. Make sure you get a piece without existing bends in it or it will be extra floppy.
  • Posterboard? You know, a giant sheet of cardstock. Another good inexpensive option. You can get this in a lot of colors, and it will stand out well. Rain will ruin your day, though.
  • Foamcore? If it’s a calm day, this is a great option. A little rain won’t hurt, at least in the short term. Wind is a big problem for foamcore, where its size and stiffness turn it into a kite. Also, vinyl stick-on letters will hold well on foamcore.

If  you’re taking a DIY approach, markers are good, but you should also consider using non-water-based paint and spraying it with a craft sealant afterward for weatherproofing. If you’re going to print a large sign, get your orders in early. Print shops may be overwhelmed close to the deadline.

Speaking of print shops, many of them will give you PowerPoint templates to work with. Use it for size, but scrap the design and start fresh. Do not try to have a scientific presentation on your protest sign. I’ll have a whole post about this later, but for now just remember the “Three Word Chant” target from my last post.

Also in a later post: what to do with your poster before and after the march. You spent time and money on this, why use it just one day?


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