The Quick 7: Seven Pieces of Unapproved Signage


Yesterday's post about graffiti turned up some interesting info on a similar phenomenon sometimes referred to as Unapproved Signage (sometimes it doubles as installation art). Unapproved or not, I'd be intrigued to find any of these in my town - here are a few of my favorites.

1. Roundabout dog.

These little guys were originally Swedish installations but have since started spreading across Europe. An official, city-sanctioned piece of art was commissioned and installed in the middle of a grassy roundabout in Linköping, Östergötland, Sweden, in 2006 (pictured). It was vandalized and then removed. An anonymous artist replaced the concrete dog with a wooden one. Someone else felt that Rover could use a bone for his hard work guarding the roundabout and provided him with a concrete one. As soon as the community art project was reported, similar dogs started popping up in roundabouts and traffic islands across the country.

2. Toynbee tiles.

Several hundred of these mysterious tiles have been discovered in at least 24 U.S. cities and three South American cities since the 1980s. The tiles have been anonymously placed in the ground and say something along the lines of the one pictured ("Toynbee Idea/In Kubrick's 2001/Resurrect Dead/On Planet Jupiter"). "Toynbee" refers to historian Arnold Toynbee who had some strong opinions on the rise and fall of civilizations, such as "Civilizations die from suicide, not by murder." Hmm. Some investigation shows that the tiles are made of linoleum and then cemented into place, but that's about as much as we know about them. Although there are some suspicions as to who made the original tiles (some are thought to be copycats) no one has come forward to officially claim them.

3. Yarnbombing.

You've probably seen coffee cozies - instead of being wasteful and using a new cardboard holder at Starbucks every day to protect your fingers from piping hot coffee, some people knit themselves reusable coffee cozies. Well, yarnbombing is basically the same concept, except they're more along the lines of handle cozies, tree cozies, and monorail post cozies. Really. Radical knitters leave their mark by covering a public piece in knit when no one is looking. It's a little silly and a lot fun, I think.

4. The Valentine Phantom/Valentine Bandit. Wouldn't it be sweet (or nauseating, I suppose) to wake up on Valentine's Day and find your town peppered with hearts? That's what happens every year in Montpelier, Vermont. Overnight, an anonymous person (or people, probably) pick a spot in town to decorate with love. In recent years, hearts have been spotted on the State House, at the local high school, on a prominent bridge overpass, at the Vermont College of Fine Arts and at the Kellogg-Hubbard Library. And Montpelier isn't the only town that has a Bandit - similar incidents have happened in Portland, Maine, and Boulder, Colorado.

5. Adult Swim bomb scare.

In 2007, Adult Swim scared the crap out of the public when they embarked upon a PR campaign that apparently looked a little too much like a bomb for the liking of some people. They created some printed circuit boards that, when lit up, showed a Mooninite, a character from the Adult Swim show

Aqua Teen Hunger Force

. Most people likened the device to a fancy Lite-Brite. The circuit boards were installed in high traffic areas like overpasses and subway stations. Unfortunately, not everyone recognized the character and panic ensued when one of them was called in as a bomb. Once the Boston Bomb Squad exploded one of these devices to see what it was, they determined that it wasn't dangerous.

6. The Bubble Project.

An artist named Ji Lee printed 15,000 stickers that looked like comic strip speech bubbles. Then he installed them on billboards and advertisements all over New York city, leaving them blank to see what people would decide the people in the ads were really thinking. The project proved to be quite popular with the public and quickly spread to other cities. You can see some examples of them at


7. Father Pat Noise. Want to buy a commemorative plaque for your deceased loved ones, but don't quite have the budget to make the donation it would likely require? No problem - make your own and install it when no one is looking. That's what a couple of brothers in Dublin did in 2004. They made a very official-looking plaque and placed it in a depression in the O'Connell Bridge left from the control box of a millennium countdown clock that had been removed. It read:


It was there for more than two years before it was discovered to be a hoax; the brothers said it was a tribute to their father. "Pat Noise" was supposed to be a play on the Latin phrase "pater noster," meaning "our father." Word is that the plaque is still there.

Have you spotted anything like these?