Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine Dog Signage

Merit Award 2015

Created for the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine in New York, this series of signs gently reminds visitors to curb and leash thy dogs. As a popular spot in the neighborhood for walking dogs, the Cathedral tasked Pentagram’s Michael Bierut and his team to create a standard set of signage regarding dog control on their lawns. Rather than go with a more standard, off-the-shelf design, the team opted for a design that was rooted in the brand’s identity.

The Cathedral’s identity, designed by Bierut in 2009, employs the custom font Divine, a redrawn version of Frederic Goudy’s 1928 Blackletter. The identity has always integrated wit into its messaging, and the designers knew that combining biblical references with the notion of cleaning up dog poop would make for an experience that visitors would be much more likely to remember than standard icons or generic messaging.

The signs—“Thou shalt not poop,” “Hold close thy loved,” and “Collect what you receive”—have been installed as permanent additions to the Cathedral grounds, and have received a widespread positive response from visitors and critics alike. Such reactions are visible in online press, where the signage has been featured on major media outlets including Wired and Slate, as well as across social media, where images of the signs posted by visitors from all over the world now populate Instagram and Twitter. Additional messages for “No Smoking” and “Please Use the Sidewalk” have been added to the family. The client has also reported that the signs are unfortunately being stolen. Pentagram assumes this is because people want them for themselves—and takes this as a compliment.

Jury Comments: 

“Smart, funny, highly memorable. This project shows how you can do a lot with a small budget if you've got a strong idea. I also like how it takes a message that normally no one wants to see, and turns it into a feature.”

“Witty use of language and typography transforms rules into an amusing experience.”

“Contextual humor combined with sophisticated typography is the main driver for this project’s success. The commandments transform normally mundane prohibitions into highly motivational conversation pieces.”

Design Firm: 

Pentagram

Client: 

The Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine

Location City: 

New York

Open Date: 

October 2013

Project Budget: 

$54 per sign (fabrication) Pro Bono

Photo Credits: 

Pentagram

Design Team: 

Michael Bierut (partner in charge and designer), Jesse Reed (designer)

Consultants: 

N/A

Fabricators: 

Top Notch Graphics 

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