Wet Your Paints

We take the everyday designs for granted. And yet they are difficult to ignore. Simple words of caution alter our behavior. Stop, Go, No Trespassing. We are conditioned, somehow, to respond obediently. Wet Paint is one of those most commonly unquestioned warnings. No one wants to get their hands or clothes stained, so a simple beware is all that’s necessary. And yet sometimes Wet Paint signs remain intact long after the paint has dried. Is this abuse of power or benign neglect? Whatever the rationale, Wet Paint is simply not worth disobeying.

Here are some Wet Paint signs from the 1950s. Next time you see one, keep in mind the power of graphic design for good.

6 thoughts on “Wet Your Paints

  1. Jane / MulchMaid

    This reminds me of the wet paint signs always used in my office building. The upper third of the red and white sign touts a well-known local brand of paint. The remainder of the space is filled as follows:
    It’s the best but it isWET PAINT
    Someone came up with a great, inexpensive marketing strategy there.

  2. Adriana

    These are lovely warning/adverts. It’s funny that when people see a Wet Paint sign, they lightly tap the object to see if it is really wet.
    Of particular interest to me are the Dutch Boy signs. In my husband’s family lore, an ancestor of theirs created the Dutch Boy logo. I contacted the company a while back, but they had no record of who the artist was.

  3. Hank Richardson

    steve, your column on wet paint signs this morning is so reminding of how the ordinary can be extraordinary… my favorite ordinary signs that seem to me, to be the ‘spirit of new york are the ones on the construction sites as you walk about the city, with the blue backgrounds and white stenciled typography that say, ‘post no bills.’ the typography is always skewed this way or that and always kerned a little differently, and they are sophisticated and yet raw at the same time– just such attributes that say ‘determination and will’ within the city. hank.  

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