In early February, the Toronto Transit Commission attracted a bit of stick for posting, and then promptly removing, a map of the bus platform at Downsview Station. The design of the map took into account the shape of the station’s bus platform, which just so happens to look like part of the male anatomy.

Controversial Signs

TTC spokesman Brad Ross said no complaints from the public were received, but added that the sign “led some to believe it looked like a very phallic-looking symbol and we don’t want any of our maps to be misconstrued.”

The TTC incident got us wondering what other controversial signs have been placed in public view, and we found a few notable examples.

Gun shop takes shot at President Obama

A gun shop owner in Houston, Texas has used his store’s signage to express his political views – and they’re not always expressed in the most tasteful way. Jeremy Alcede, CEO of Tactical Firearms, had heads turning last September when he posted the message, “Does one of Obamas family members have to be beheaded for “change” to happen?” on his store’s sign. The message was posted soon after ISIS beheaded two journalists. While not in the best taste, the controversial signs used by Tactical Firearms garnered attention both in the community and in local media.

Priestly Postings

An Anglican priest in Australia has received mixed reviews of the messages he’s put up on the sign of his church in the city of Gosford. One message Rod Bower posted on his church’s sign read: “Dear Christians, some people are gay, get over it. Love, God.” That sign sparked interest in the community, and while it brought some new parishioners to the Gosford Anglican Church, it also alienated more orthodox believers.

Some of Bower’s other messages other messages have been more politicized, such as one that read, “In the ocean, no one can hear you scream,” a shot at his national government’s policy on turning away asylum seekers who arrive on Australian shores. Bower once also noted on his sign, “Israel: it’s an eye for an eye, not a village for an eye,” which of course proved to be a polarizing message.

Language Barriers

Geno’s Steaks is a Philadelphia restaurant that specializes in the city’s signature dish – cheesesteaks. In 2006, when immigration was a hot topic in the United States, the restaurant gained notoriety for posting a sign that read: “This is America. When ordering, please speak English.”

A discrimination complaint was filed, but Geno’s owner Joey Vento said no one had been refused service for not speaking English. Philadelphia’s Commission on Human Relations eventually ruled Vento did not violate the city’s Fair Practices Ordinance.

Florida Fat Shaming Sign

If you live in Florida, you’ll likely spend some time at the beach, which is bad news if you’re fat. Or so said PETA, in a controversial billboard. The image of an overweight, bikini-clad woman was underscored with the message: “Save the whales. Lose the blubber. Go vegetarian.”

The animal rights group said they were only reminding people who wanted to lose weight that a vegetarian diet could help them do so. Nevertheless, their slogan was hurtful to overweight people, and somewhat inaccurate because weight loss comes down to making a number of healthy choices, not just adhering to a vegetarian diet.

Sign Conclusions

About Signs is not recommending you put up shocking or controversial signage to get your business in the newspaper.  In fact, the majority of the signs above were hand made by the owners of the businesses themselves.  These stories do make for interesting case studies.