A Sign of Democracy


C&G Partners

Practice Area


National Center for the Preservation of Democracy

Project Vision

This classic, dynamic flap sign was designed and commissioned to display inspirational quotes, poems, questions, and statements about democracy rather than train timetables. Unlike normal flap signs, this one has no labels or markings on it other than the letters that appear when the flaps move. When it is blank, it is mute.


The institution places special emphasis on the actions of democracy. That spirit comes alive in this piece, which changes to a new quote or poem line by line, letter by letter, in a noisy cascade that can be heard throughout the lobby every so often.


Each flap of each mechanical unit was silkscreened with a customized layout that incorporated the main typeface in the client’s brand identity and a series of special characters for writing in international languages.


The timing of the dynamic sign changes is neither fast nor regular, but it is delightfully loud, which creates a sense of surprise with every change. The staff who work in the building like the sign a great deal, comparing the sound it occasionally makes to the sound of a “great big rain stick.”


Project Details
Jenny Holzer with a retro twist. The intentional use of the old split-flap, changeable message display technology is what makes this cool. This project is a notable example of design serving a public purpose in a delightful way. I think it connects the client's very serious intent with a design solution that engages the viewer through technical simplicity and bold elegance. This design, like the messages it displays, refuses to be ignored and will not fail to inspire.
Juror 1
Design Team

Jonathan Alger (Principal in Charge), Bettina Berg

Design Firm

C&G Partners


Levin and Associates (architects)