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Redesigning Homeless People's Handwritten Signs

Adele Peters

In this project, graphic designers meet homeless people on the streets of their neighborhood in Boston, learn their stories, and then design a new sign for them to replace their handwritten cardboard messages. The goal? To make people passing by notice the signs, stop, and talk with the people living on the street.

via FastCoDesign

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  • Francesca Ramos

    As a graphic designer passing through Hollywood Bl. on her way to work, I am quick to notice the hand-written signs on cardboard that the homeless people carry everyday. Some signs ask for opportunity, and some simply offer simple reminders (I come across one every morning that reads "Love One Another"). Personally, I find the signs that they write themselves more endearing than the "prettyfied" signs in this project. It gives me a unique insight to what the person who wrote the sign might be like, what drives them to hold that same sign every day, and I wonder that by making their signs louder, more whimsical, more alluring will give the effect of a bombarding advertisement rather than an honest plea for help.

    I don't think we need to make homeless people more visible. We see them everywhere, in bus stops, in sidewalks, huddled with the few belongings they have, and yet we have made the conscious choice to ignore their existence. But there's an aspect of humanity in the raw, handwritten signs that they make themselves that pulls me in, while the designed and expertly painted signs only seems to mask them.

    Despite that, I feel that the blog component of this project seems to be more substantial than the signs themselves. I like how it humanizes those who are otherwise ignored. But simply making something look "prettier" than it was before is not the best design solution for solving their issues. It seems quite shallow and inconclusive.

    But what if we actually paid them to hold certain kinds of signs that would result to some means of income and an earnest job? Anyway...

  • GCzene

    These folks' stories are heartbreaking and dispel the notion that people choose to be homeless. I wonder whether the signs yielded more donations than the home-made signs. It seems to me that some donors might question the person's need given such a nice sign.

  • Alessandra Rizzotti

    Though I find this interesting, what about helping homeless people get off the streets so they don't have to use these signs? Yes this sign starts a conversation, but if it's not with a social worker or therapist, what value does it have? Teach them to design so they can make their own sign. Give them skills so that they can get out of their situation. Sharing a homeless person's story has more value if you ask me. Check out the @home_campaign:

    • Adele Peters

      Definitely true that helping end homelessness requires major systems changes (going far beyond what current social services can provide now). One of the things I like about this project is that they've shared the individual stories of the people they met with every post they put up. And I think there's value in helping make homeless people more visible as humans to the others walking by, when they're so often ignored. It's not solving homelessness by any means, but may help change the days of both the homeless people they work with, and those who see the signs, in small but meaningful ways.

  • Hillary Newman

    What a cool project. In high school I made a documentary with a friend about the homeless kids of Santa Monica Beach to share their stories. It was an eye-opening project and helped me understand how complicated the issue of homelessness truly is. Happy to see these designers using art to address the issue.