Funhouse Mirror

Sign satire is central to Universal Studios’ The Simpsons Ride.
Sign satire is central to Universal Studios’ The Simpsons Ride.

Like the namesake television show they are based on, Universal Studios’ The Simpsons Rides (in Orlando and Los Angeles) poke fun at all aspects of American culture. Also, as in the show, signs are used to dole out an outsized portion of well-intentioned zingers.

These irreverent parodies pay homage to many historical signs. Clever attention to detail rewards sign-savvy visitors for their knowledge of 20th-century advertising. Every sign reveals entertaining truths about common design tropes. 

For example, with its funky fonts, eye-popping colors and large-scale dimensional attractions, the entrance to Krustyland harkens back to mid-century boardwalks. In the same vein, the Lard Lad Donuts statue takes an off-kilter look at Big Boy’s iconic mascot. 

The ride’s Duff Beer sign winks at dozens of industrial-era brewery signs using a steel superstructure and dimensional neon. Additionally, every fan of I Love Lucy will surely make a cheerful connection to the stylized Krustylu Studios marquee. 

In every corner, nonsensical nostalgia is thrown in for good measure. Over-the-top, borderline-cliché branding of the ice cream parlor and hamburger stand signs make sure you are in on the joke.

Just as every successful gag contains a seed of truth, each of these satirical signs is based on the visual language of the sign industry. 

Ultimately, these distorted “funhouse mirror” versions of signs remind designers it’s fine to loosen up a bit, have fun and remember where we came from.

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Signs of the Times April 2019

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