Why are these signs backwards?
May 1, 2006 12:05 PM   Subscribe

Why would someone paint backwards signs onto the side of a building?

In Portland, there's an old mirror image of a Coca-Cola sign painted onto the side of a building (apologies for the lack of a clear shot; it's always obscured by plants and vehicles). There's an old mirror image of an Oldsmobile sign painted on a building that can be seen from the smoking patio of the Elysian in Seattle.

These don't appear to be sneaky ways of getting drivers to see the signs; they're both clearly quite old, quite intentional, and perfect mirror images of what the sign should be. So what's the explanation? Are there more than these two out there?
posted by cmonkey to Society & Culture (21 answers total)
The word "ambulance" is mirrored on the front of an ambulance so it reads correctly in a rear-view mirror. Same reason?

Or maybe it's just to catch your eye. I think there is solid evidence that at least upside-down images are very attention getting, and once in a while you'll see upside-down ads in magazines for that reason.
posted by mcstayinskool at 12:08 PM on May 1, 2006

so people could read them in their rearview mirrors ... or a glass window across the street?
posted by pyramid termite at 12:08 PM on May 1, 2006

Maybe they want you to see it in your rear view mirror (or did when they were painted)? Like ECNALUBMA on an ambulance. That's pretty weird.
posted by doctor_negative at 12:09 PM on May 1, 2006

Could they have originally been on the buildings next door to the current structure, then the current structure got built over them, and when the original building was demolished, the "back" of the image was left on the current building?
posted by occhiblu at 12:09 PM on May 1, 2006

Or on preview, etc...
posted by doctor_negative at 12:10 PM on May 1, 2006

Actually, it's quite likely they were painted backward on purpose to catch people's attention. I passed a modern billboard not too long ago that had a car dealership's name upside down, with the rest of the information oriented correctly (at a smaller size).

Don't forget that once upon a time, advertising wasn't nearly as closely coordinated and finely orchestrated as it is today. Wacky things like this were tried from time to time.
posted by me3dia at 12:12 PM on May 1, 2006

The sign in Portland is at ground level, and not in any position for a driver to see as they're driving away. The Oldsmobile sign is in a better position for that explanation, though.
posted by cmonkey at 12:17 PM on May 1, 2006

I wonder what is [or what was] on the opposite side of the building - perhaps at one time the sign was painted "forwards" on one side, and "backwards" on the opposite? File this under the 'to catch your attention' category mentioned above.
posted by hsoltz at 12:36 PM on May 1, 2006

Is it possible that at the time the sign was painted, it WAS in such a position that it could have been seen in rear-view mirrors? Maybe a new building has been constructed that blocks its view from a major intersection of some sort.
posted by bcwinters at 12:40 PM on May 1, 2006

Maybe it was across the street from a mirror factory.
posted by bjork24 at 1:04 PM on May 1, 2006

Another idea:
Could it have been painted on the front side of the building forward?
Or across the street at some point? (so you have it forward on one side of the street and reversed on the other.)

Part of it says (I think) Relieves Fatigue, Sold everywhere. This may give a hint on the age.
posted by filmgeek at 1:35 PM on May 1, 2006

My guess is that the signs painted bacwards were intended to draw the attention of the people in the building on which it was painted. When they looked out of their building they would see the reflection on a building across the street.

Although any scenario seems like a silly waste of time to me.
posted by terrapin at 1:36 PM on May 1, 2006

To avoid copyright?
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 2:05 PM on May 1, 2006

It's clearly a derivative work, duh.
posted by sonofsamiam at 2:19 PM on May 1, 2006

I agree with me3dia -- "Wacky things like this were tried from time to time." When I was small there was a near-by hardware store called "Republic" which had the "C" backwards on their sign. There was never any good explanation for why; but when Toys'R'Us appeared a little later, their backwards "R" didn't seem so strange, because of that hardware store.
posted by Rash at 2:34 PM on May 1, 2006

If the building's a hospital maybe they are advertising to the x-ray machine operators!
posted by aubilenon at 2:38 PM on May 1, 2006

Maybe at one time drivers could see them? If they're pretty old, that could definitely be the case.
posted by cellphone at 2:40 PM on May 1, 2006

Perhaps someone just read Franquin's "Z comme Zorglub", a french comic from 1960, where they end up painting the moon with that particular logo.
posted by KimG at 3:08 PM on May 1, 2006

Can we ignore the possibility of people with x-ray vision on the inside of the building?
posted by drewbeck at 4:58 PM on May 1, 2006

Does the building across the street have coated windows with a mirror-like finish?
posted by Wild_Eep at 5:47 PM on May 1, 2006

That is their motto from 1908, I find it unlikely that it is designed for rear view mirrors that were not fitted to automobiles until 1911.
posted by Megafly at 5:28 PM on May 2, 2006

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