A fresh yellow street sign silently instructs Toronto's pedestrians to demonstrate a respect that has long been absent from sidewalk's of Canada's largest city. Homeless sleeping: QUIET, reads the metallic notice, freshly bolted to a downtown lamppost.
The creative genius of Ontario College of Art and Design student Mark Daye, this sign is one of many he designed and erected in downtown Toronto, subverting official signage to draw attention to the city's homelessness crisis. The others sport similar messages: “Homeless warming grate. Please keep clear.” “Please have change ready for the homeless.” “Homelessness has nothing to do with lack of shelter.”
In an interview with the Toronto Star, Daye explained his rationale behind the project. “I started thinking about the way sign systems work. There's official signage. There's advertising. So I thought, what would happen if I used official-looking signage, but I put an unofficial message in it?”
Simple, subtle, effective–just enough to draw the ire of government officials. Lacking both a sense of humor and compassion, the City of Toronto has been feverishly removing the unapproved messages in a bid to cleanse the city of any subversive signage.
“You can't do that,” city spokesperson Brad Ross told the Star. “We have an encroachment bylaw, so we've been removing them as we come across them. The signs that the city (has) are way-finding and also letting people know what the restrictions are with respect to parking and stopping and turning and those kinds of things. They're strictly for motorists to understand what the bylaws are on the roads.” By this rationale city workers should parade around town removing billboards for cologne and car dealerships.
(Photo: Toronto Star)