Cheeky street signs help students navigate campus

One of 200 signs posted in ECSW directs students to a working elevator. Photo by Michael Stout | Mercury Staff.

In an effort to curb the uniform nature of street and directional signs, one UTD graduate has been posting a series of humorous and sarcastic signs all over UTD’s buildings and roads.

The alumnus, a Facilities Management staff member only identified as “Brett,” declined an interview request from The Mercury. Jay Silber, the sign and key shop supervisor at facilities management, said he was in charge of creating the signs before Brett’s arrival at UTD. He said the signs were placed around campus for wayfinding, interior and exterior signage and for ADA-approved accessible routes.

“It really started with trying to keep people out of the street during the construction of ECSW,” Silber said. “Brett gets bored with doing the same thing every time, so he said, ‘Well, why don’t we do something that will catch people’s attention a little bit rather than just basic directional signs?’”

Silber said Brett worked for Facilities Management for ten years and started making the signs himself when the Science Learning Center was built. Silber and Brett originally met while designing floor plans for buildings on campus. Silber said Brett has an immense knowledge of layout of every campus building, and his intellectual humor is reflected in the signs.

“Considering UTD accepts only the best and the brightest, these are signs we think people of this intellectual level will understand this humor,” Silber said. “We don’t do what I see many comedians do as ‘bathroom humor.’ It’s kind of a high intellect sense of humor.”

To produce a sign for the campus, Brett proposes ideas for signs, and staff members at Facilities Management offer opinions on the signs before they print. Silber said Brett designed 150-200 of the signs for ECS West in a week. 

“It takes a while, and he’ll kind of agonize over them for a while to get the wording just right. When we were putting up the signs in ECSW, we were putting one of them on the elevators and one of them said, ‘This elevator actually works. Push the button.’” Silber said. “When we went to put it up, he said, ‘Oh, we can’t use this, I don’t want to tell people what to do.’ So, he came back, he redid the sign, and it said, ‘This elevator actually works. Try the button.’ He didn’t want to tell people what to do, so he wanted to suggest (to) people what to do.”

Silber said the signs are popular among students and that he gets calls and emails from them frequently. Brett continues to be the sole creator of the campus’ signs. Silber said he hopes people will follow the signs in the future.

“It kind of gets people thinking rather than just papering the world with a bunch of boring stuff,” Silber said. “It gives people a little chuckle along the way, and people know as they’re finding their way around the building… to look for these signs.”

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