Full confession: when I sat down to write an article about protest signs, I told my editor I’d try to keep it apolitical. Turns out, people don’t protest uncontroversial topics.

Here’s what I’m going to do: I’m going to write about the signs and just the signs. If you happen to agree with the content of the sign, awesome. If you don’t, that’s cool too. Just remember that’s not what I’m writing about. It’s just about the signs.

So, what does it take to create a memorable protest sign? Some poster board. A Sharpie. Your creativity. And these five tips.

1) Have a clear message
2) Use humor and wit
3) Keep it simple
4) Remember that presentation matters
5) Be passionate

Alright, here we go. Let’s get started and build you an awesome sign.

1) Have a clear message

Ask yourself: what exactly are you trying to say with your protest sign? Keep it to one message not 17. There are all sorts of ways to do that, so be creative!

Delegates wave "Love trumps hate" signs towards the podium during the first session at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S. July 25, 2016. REUTERS/Mark Kauzlarich - RTSJLN8
Photo courtesy REUTERS/Mark Kauzlarich

Signs don’t get much clearer than this. Big, bold text, easily readable and understandable. The red-white-and-blue color scheme gives it a nice patriotic edge, too. The slogan itself is a bit questionable; why are the first two words “Love Trump”? Seriously, using your opponent’s name as a good thing is a silly mistake.

Photo courtesy of Voice of America News

These Bernie supporters have it figured out. Vandalize one opponent’s signage while making it clear who you’re going to “trump.” Except for the lady in the American flag cowboy hat; she seems to have missed the memo.

Photo courtesy Getty Images

Let’s say you want to protest austerity, but you don’t have the means to create a massive sign for your protest. What do you do?

Find a location with pre-existing imagery that does the work for you! That giant pair of scissors is a sign for a barber shop, but when people are protesting “cuts,” it takes on a whole new meaning. The organizers of this protest clearly thought about the optics before hand.

Photo courtesy Al Jazeera

These protestors have the right idea. The left’s poster is appropriately colorful, given her advice, while the right’s is duly stark. The visual contrast makes it more likely the viewer will read both signs. The wordplay is clever, too, using three different meanings of the word “drop.”

Photo courtesy Know Your Meme

Still afraid your message isn’t clear? Maybe call out the messengers to take extra care that they convey your message accurately. Plus, throw in a joke! which brings us to:

2) Use humor and wit

Let’s talk about some funny signs that have something serious to say.

Courtesy About.com

Now here’s a sign almost any American can agree with. Currently, 78% of us disapprove of Congress as a whole, while most Senators have a positive approval rating. Basically, most people like the representative they voted for and hate the guys from all those other states.

I also love that the guy commits to the joke with makeup and funny pants. Not sure what’s up with the mortarboard, though. Did he just graduate from clown college (aka Princeton)?

Photo courtesy PrimaV

I mean, yeah, who can’t relate to this? Even if you’re not that guy, you know someone who’s that guy.

This protester put more thought into his sign than a lot of people on this list. The text is evenly spaced, easy to read, with just the right of emphasis to make the point clear.

Courtesy Skyler Pilgram

Here’s another simple-but-witty sign. Sometimes you don’t have the ability to actually draw a humorous image, so you create one with a clever turn of phrase.

Photo courtesy Imgur

Another jokey “I am” sign, this time with a double-burn. Gotta love it. If she wants a job making protest signs, I would hire her.

Of course, your expression of protest needn’t be limited to just signs. For instance, you can show support for the miniskirt by wearing a miniskirt…

Photo courtesy AP Images

Or protest anti-nudity laws by wearing nothing at all…

A woman, who would not give her name, holds a sign saying "Nude is Natural," during a rally against banning nudity in parts of the city in San Francisco, California, November 14, 2012. REUTERS/Beck Diefenbach (UNITED STATES - Tags: CIVIL UNREST POLITICS SOCIETY)
Photo courtesy SF Fun Cheap

Or you can draw parallels between your body and the animals whose lives you wish to preserve…

Photo courtesy PETA

3) Keep it simple

Once you’ve figured out your key message, don’t go too far. Simple words are all you need.

Photo courtesy UNC Chapel Hill

The sentiment couldn’t be more straightforward, so no effort is made to fancy up the text. Simple, stark and clear, it does not invite argument, only agreement.

Photo courtesy Twenty Two Words

Now here’s a sign whose form follows its content. It’s a little sign, and she’s a little upset? Get it? Okay, it’s less funny when I point it out. Still, clever.

Photo courtesy World Wide Interweb

Variations on this one can be seen at nearly any sizable protest. It’s an easy way to get a chuckle from the protesters around you. Keeping things lighthearted is an admirable goal, too. It helps prevent the “crowd” from becoming a “mob.”

Photo courtesy Imgur

And this is about as simple as it gets. That’s the Brandenburg Gate in the background, and if you know anything about German music, you know they love techno.

Photo courtesy Twenty Two Words

The tiny text is not indicative of a lack of foresight. It’s the entire gag. But the central message of this poster seems to be, “I’m smarter than you. Pay attention to me!” Not generally a great way to appeal to the masses.

4) Remember that presentation matters

Whether you’ve got a poster board from Walgreens or a professionally printed sign, remember that looking good matters. Think about how the design of your poster is affecting your message.

Photo courtesy EPA

Here’s a clear, simple message conveyed in a clear, simple way. They want to tell their government “Don’t bomb Syria,” so that’s exactly what they write. It’s hard to mess that up.

Except… you have to consider that you’re going to be photographed, and what your sign is going to look like in a photo. Photographers are going to focus on your faces; that’s just how people work. Which means the most likely part of your sign to get cropped is the top of it.

Two-thirds of the legible signs in this picture say “Bomb Syria.”

Photo courtesy Dan Kitwood / Getty Images

Here’s another protester who decided to dress the part of the victims she’s aiming to rescue. The homemade aesthetic of the balaclava gives it an appropriately punk rock feel.

But that sign… What are you even doing, lady? It looks like she grabbed the top sheet off the printer and scribbled as fast as she could. A sign does no good if no one’s going to see it.

Photo courtesy Imgur

The legal analysis here is 100% correct (at least in the United States). The First Amendment secures the freedom of expression and the right to peaceably assemble.

The presentation leaves something to be desired, however. While the words are still legible, the signmaker went a little overboard with the underscores. When you underline three-quarters of your words, it kinda loses any power of emphasis. I guess that’s why they decided to capitalize “NOT” as well.

You know what we’re not thinking about at that point? Peaceably assembling.

Photo courtesy Imgur

Here’s yet another sign made with a lot of fervor, but not a lot of foresight. It’s so tiny, only about 12 people will be able to read any of it. And there’s way too much text to convey any sort of message. If you can’t hold your sign without covering one of your six hashtags, you’ve written too much.

Also, six hashtags. Come on.

Photo courtesy OccupyDRBC

Yes! This is how you present an argument. The sign is clear and legible, even at a distance. The important phrase is emphasized. She’s even drawn a heart and a peace symbol to fill out the white space and underscore her point.

Even better: context matters. She found a friendly police officer to share the sign with. This guy is in a position of power, yet flashing a peace sign. By reaching out to someone who one might think, stereotypically, wouldn’t be receptive to her message, she’s created a bond that helps complete her message.

5) Be passionate

Perhaps most importantly, let your passion (or frustration or anger or disappointment) bleed onto your sign. Give your sign real, genuine “heart” and people have to take notice.

Photo courtesy Buzzfeed

This poster pretty much encapsulates why people make protest signs. Gather enough people with enough passion, and you can change the world.

Photo courtesy Whizzpast

These are some classy signs. People don’t make signs like this anymore. The text is clear and easy to read, without being too fussy.

The first two signs make some keen observations that would have struck a chord with the white middle class of the time. The third sign eschews any wordplay and instead makes a direct plea. Taken together, as they’re clearly meant to be, the signs are very effective.

Photo courtesy Agamemnon Films

Here’s another set of signs that are meant to be taken together. The first two set a pattern, quoting a well-respected man. The third violates the pattern by not quoting, and instead a conclusion that could be drawn from the others. If all men are created equal and we’re to love our neighbor, then racial bias must be bad.

(At the time, of course, “communism” was treated as a synonym for “bad.”)

Photo courtesy Buzzfeed

Okay, so, the material for the sign was obviously whatever they had lying around. But I’ll forgive that because this is just heartwarming. These signs actually tell a story, about two guys from different worlds who are obviously friends. They have to work together to hold all three signs, so the very act of displaying the sign conveys a message.

It’s not the funniest or best-made sign on this list, but I think it’s my favorite.