40 Signs That Raise More Questions Than Answers, As Posted On This Facebook Group
Communication is about clarity. The more muddled the message—the more confusion you’re bound to see on the reader’s face. When it comes to the signs you see in public, you normally expect all of them to be brief, precise, and informative. Alas! Nothing could be farther from the truth. Far from everyone’s a pro when it comes to writing and advertising skills, and the ‘Useless, Unsuccessful, and/or Unpopular Signage’ Facebook group is proof enough.
An online group bringing together nearly 191k members, the UUU Signage project has been around since November 2014. Since then, it has collected a vast archive of some of the very worst and funniest signs to be found on Planet Earth. We’re featuring a selection of the very best ones, so go on, have a scroll and a glance. Don’t forget to upvote the signs that made you laugh and made you more confused than you expected, and if you’re a fan, go ahead and join the UUU Signage group.
I had a friendly chat about the most important things when making a sign—any sign—with Lisa McLendon. She is the William Allen White Professor of Journalism and Mass Communications and the coordinator of the Bremner Editing Center at the University of Kansas. You'll find the insights she shared with Bored Panda below, dear Readers.
Remember… keep it simple—keep it short—keep it clear.
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Lisa, from the University of Kansas, highlighted to Bored Panda that when it comes to making signs, clarity and brevity are essential. This is because you don't have much time to get your point across and you need to be quick and sharp with your messaging.
"Clarity and brevity are essential. You only have a second or two to get your message across, so you want people to understand quickly with zero confusion," she told Bored Panda.
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I was also interested to get Lisa's opinion about the types of egregious mistakes that the people putting up various signs should avoid.
"Don’t carve an error in stone. It’s embarrassing and expensive to fix. Proofreading before you produce, whether it’s stone or not, is absolutely necessary," she said that we should take the time to look over our work before making any permanent decisions. Proofreading is far cheaper than fixing a mistake later on.
Lisa also noted that the font that we choose for our sign is incredibly important. "Choose your font with readability in mind. It should be clear and readable at a distance; you don’t want to make people puzzle through a swirly script," she said.
The UUU Signage page is part of the wider ‘Useless, Unsuccessful, and/or Unpopular’ community that encompasses a variety of different niches, from ads and screenshots to memes.
The group’s admins and mods note that they’re only interested in photos that people have taken themselves. So, for instance, screenshots have no place here (in fact, there’s an entirely separate UUU group for them specifically). Original content and exploration are encouraged. All for the sake of documenting signage that should have us laughing all the way till the weekend.
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It’s easy to sit back and chuckle at some of the silly (and sometimes downright mental) mistakes some sign-makers have made. However, we’ve all been in situations where we’ve made similar mistakes, for everyone to see and gently poke fun at.
Perhaps we didn’t edit our text enough (or at all…) because we were exhausted. Maybe our proofreading skills weren’t up to scratch anymore (thanks a bunch, Fifth Cup of Coffee). Or maybe, just maybe, all those silly mistakes snuck into our sentences the moment our backs were turned.
Frankly, I like this last theory the most, even if it’s the least likely. It suggests that there’s a Greater Force at work here, sprinkling chaos into our otherwise orderly word structures.
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A while ago, I had another chat about editing, proofreading, and kerning (it’s the spacing between letters, Pandas) via email with Lisa from the University of Kansas.
"Word placement, typeface, and kerning are crucial for effective, professional-looking logos and layouts. If it’s just a few words, all-caps is fine, but it’s harder for people to read longer blocks of text in all caps. It’s also harder for people to read italic or highly stylized type, or type along a curve instead of a line,” Lisa explained to Bored Panda.
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What’s more, Lisa noted that we should look at all the ways in which our words could be misread or read out of order if they’re circled or stacked on top of one another. Meanwhile, if the kerning happens to be too tight, some of the letters could merge into different symbols and result in some (hilariously) embarrassing misreadings.
One example of this is writing the word ‘FLICKERING’ in all caps. If the kerning is too tight, the ‘L’ and the ‘I’ merge into a ‘U’ and… well, it’s fairly obvious what happens, isn’t it?
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Lisa suggests running a spell-check to catch any typos. It’s a very obvious step, but not everyone does it. However, the tool isn’t omnipotent. “Spell-check won’t catch typos that result in a word that is still a word, just not the word you want,” she warned that you should still get someone else to proofread the text.