Grab some cardboard. Get your markers. Oh and don’t forget to pack your burning desire to overthrow the fascist alt-right uprising.
If there was ever a time to nail the art of protesting, it would be now. Everyone knows the most important part of a protest (apart from turning up of course), is the sign you’re holding proud above your head.
Protest signs can be funny, reflective, cheeky, brutal or even poetic. And although they’re often seen as just a bit of fun, they can be critical in shaping how the public reacts to the protest and the issues the protest is trying to tackle. Without a doubt, it’s these signs that will be slapped on social media and snapped up by hungry media organisations. The better the protest signs, the more publicity the protest gets and the more engaged the public will be become in the issue at hand.
But how does one create a truly great protest sign? With just a few words to get your message across, how does one linguistically create the ultimate statement? There’s no better example than the massively successful (and incredibly viral) Women’s March after Donald Trump’s election.
Let’s start with some basic tricks.
Flip the script
A classic technique you can whip out is mirroring – where you take someone’s words or actions and turn it against them. The pussy-grabbing, wall-building Trump has had plenty of things to say over the last year – both on Twitter and in real life. So take one of his famous phrases and slam him with it.
— Lucky Tran (@luckytran) January 21, 2017
— Emily Brown (@emilygbrown) January 21, 2017
Tapping into meme culture
For your protest sign to flourish, the internet needs to approve. And what does the internet love more than anything? Memes. Creating a sign that taps into meme culture is a guaranteed winner, especially as people love seeing memes escape the confines of the internet and make it in the real world.
— grace (@jauregzus) January 21, 2017
If you can’t think of anything especially creative, then your best bet is a rhyme. It’s relatively easy and immediately becomes perfect fodder for a roaring chant. Luckily for those in America, a lot of unsavoury things rhyme with Trump. Like lump. Or dump, clump, frump, slump, rump.
— ELECTRO/HOUSE/DANCE (@electro_Pty) November 9, 2016
A new trend I’m a huge fan of is the self-reflective protest sign, where people express their opinion through commenting on their own attendance. In some cases, just commenting on the fact that you made a sign in the first place is enough to get your message across.
— Susan Kaufman (@skaufman4050) January 21, 2017
One of my favorite signs from this giant protest in New York City today pic.twitter.com/4fUG8Cn3g9
— Alex Leo (@AlexMLeo) November 12, 2016
Pump the pop culture
If in doubt, rummage around for your favourite book, movie or song and turn it into a big old middle-finger to the establishment. The more well-known the better. Think Harry Potter or Mean Girls, not Grease 2.
— K. Locke (@Bibliogato) January 21, 2017
Adrian from NYC is marching for LGBT rights pic.twitter.com/9zRtwqIVsL
— Azeen Ghorayshi (@azeen) January 21, 2017
— terfle (@terfle) January 21, 2017
This sign is relevant to my interests pic.twitter.com/v0jtcGddRF
— Mazel Tov Cocktail (@AdamSerwer) January 21, 2017
Doggos & kids
They’re cute and due to their lack of political awareness, are perfect to mindlessly parrot your own ideological agenda. Perfect.
— Johanna Fuentes (@jfuentes) January 21, 2017
— WeRateDogs™ (@dog_rates) January 21, 2017
Tell it like it is
Because protest signs are so well crafted, sometimes the best thing to do is just tell it like it is – even if it doesn’t form a full sentence.
— Philip Lewis (@Phil_Lewis_) January 21, 2017
This kid winning so hard at the Portland airport pic.twitter.com/tLQBaimHRU
— Laura Hudson (@laura_hudson) January 29, 2017
Look, it’s a cheap shot. But while Trump continues to dictate what women can do with their bodies, I think we’re allowed to decide the size of his hands (and asshole).
This one got a lot of cheers pic.twitter.com/UyZ6kMvFoD
— Pema Levy (@pemalevy) January 21, 2017
But some people don’t need any hints to be hilarious
— Danielle Nussbaum (@daniellenuss) January 21, 2017
As the world contends with a seismic cultural and political shift around the world, getting outside and protesting remains the most powerful way to get your voice heard. A brilliant protest sign is a critical part of that formula. But with so much to protest against, perhaps we should just look to this guy who seems to have the right idea.