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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

Vital signs: Wayfinding signs become art

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During the spring, a series of official-looking signs that warned of homeless conditions nearby mysteriously appeared on poles downtown. They looked official and had phrases like "Homeless Sleeping: Quiet" and "Please have change ready for homeless."

After much speculation, Mark Daye, a graduating graphic design student at OCAD, came forward and took credit.

"Instead of rebranding a product or service for my fourth-year thesis project," he says, "I chose to represent a local population that usually gets overlooked….

“I re-coded official signage and affixed 30 of them to poles in the downtown core with messages pertaining to an obvious but ignored urban subculture. The goal was not only to catch people off guard by creating signs that acknowledge the homeless population on a seemingly official level, but to get people to think about codes of behaviour, conformity."

Daye went on to say that the amount of feedback he received from the sign project has been good, and that, "if I have learned anything, it's that Toronto has a lot of interested people who actively look at the city, not just travel through it."

Within a few days, all the signs had disappeared, removed by the city or taken as dorm room souvenirs.

EDITOR’S NOTE: You can read the reaction of Spacing’s readers to Mark’s project on the Spacing Toronto blog.