The bright glaring sign stood posted oblivious to my meanderings and happily screamed “watch your step” to
any passerby. Slightly amused by the audacity this little sign seemed to regard for my well-being, I mentally paused for a moment to take in my surroundings and discover who or what had caused the reasoning that the little bright red sign to become placed there.
After taking note of the danger, mainly a severe drop of the pathway that could cause a person to trip, I wondered if signs are art.
Now at first glance you may exclaim the silliness of the notion that a simple warning sign is art. But, it is a good question. Warning signs follow the same code of communication that distinguishes art as art.
The warning sign has color, texture, and form. It also fulfills an artistic function, a devilishly demanding detail that states it’s very existence and placement must have an expressive and emotional meaning to it. Further, the way or conditions in which that a person displays the sign will influence the feelings or emotions you have.
Signs having emotional ties to the viewer? Sure. A piece of art makes you think about a subject and ties an emotional response to it. Even if you have no response, that in itself is a response.
Think about the feelings you get when you see yield sign off a highway. Do you panic a little? What if they won’t yield? The sign says that I have the right of way, but is anybody slowing down?
What about a stop sign when you are late for an appointment? Do you feel frustrated? Angry? Do you look around to see if there is anyone there to catch you if you speed right through it? Would you feel guilt or “no cop no stop”?
The sign is the precursor to your reaction. It causes what you will say, think, feel, or do next. The important thing to remember is that the sign can’t actually say anything. It’s a sign. It’s the communication of the meaning of sign to you that makes it take that final leap from a piece of wood with writing on it to a work of art.
So, look around the room you are in. How much art do you see? Do you think a sign is art? Could it be?
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