I have a number of artistic obsessions, most of them revolving around the concept of Derivative Works. I love making annotated compilations, manic compendiums, and morose lists. One of my primary and lasting obsessions is with Wide Right Turn signs. I started collecting them a few years ago and I created an online home for them here on my Poetry and Technology website.
I call it "an incomplete look at the role of variation in a
capitalist society" because every different sign says the exact same
thing. You see, when large trucks make a right turn, they swing a
little bit wide to the left first.
When Flickr came out, I started posting all my new captures there. I'm now apparently an authority on the subject, if Google pagerank is to be believed.
week I got an email from Mark Bender, an American ex-pat living in
Scotland, who tells me that he created the very first Wide Right Turn
sign. I believe him. Why? Because his story rings true and he seems
(via email) to be the real McCoy. Here’s what Mark has to say:
I did the job with my friend Jim for two guys who with a company called R & L Trucking, which I think is now R & L Carriers
(210) 337-6653 4202 US Highway 90 E. San Antonio, TX. They wanted the
sign for their own fleet of something like 27 trucks but also wanted to
expand their business to making signs. I have no idea what happened to
that idea for them but thought I'd check on the web and see what they
are up to now. Now, these might not be the same guys but it is likely
as R & L Trucking is pretty particular. Way out on the north side
of San Antonio on the loop 410.Heck, I could probably drive you today.
If was not stuck in cold old Scotland!
I did it 30 years ago,
when I was 19 years old. Many impostors hoped to improve on my
original. I was doing graphic design (all by hand, no computers then)
and as my dad is an architect, I knew a thing or two about drafting.
Most of my work was very simple and linear. Anyway, my pal, Jim, who I
was working with (still great friends after all these years) got this
We went to a local place (R & L) and they thought it
would be a good idea to get a sign made that warned people of this
problem. I suppose it was really for their trucks! They also thought it
might be the sort of thing they could sell to other trucking
companies... I guess they were right as it turned out! :) All they knew
was the text: WIDE RIGHT TURNS. They had in fact made signs that said
that the words but nobody noticed them.
At the time, the idea of putting an image that "showed you" the problem
was unheard of. Also the perspective idea (sort of "as seen by" your
minds eye) was also new. I told them I would do something that would absolutely work for them.
At the time there simply were no graphical signs like this at all, and
I don't think there many even still as it is sort of almost a un
creation (my gift and my curse by the way). I have always loved
perspective (I have a degree in philosophy, so perspective in all its
forms really) and immediately knew how the sign would work. Like I
said, I am not a great illustrator but I am still proud of the idea
(actually, my favorite bit is the crazy explosion bit where the car and
the truck collide!
I guess I always loved the "POW" and "WAM" from Batman the TV show).
When I returned to the states after such a long time and found them all
over the place and also that they had started to mutate in all their
variations (as you lovingly documented with your work), I was delighted.
I got paid $500 and never thought about it
again. A few years later I move to Scotland and only returned after
about 15 years. Imagine my surprise when I got on my first highway and
started seeing my little sign on the back of just about every truck on
the road. It was really fun to see. My little slice of fame! :) Well, I
returned to Scotland and now years later I wanted to show someone the
sign but could not find the original. Mine is this one!
mentioned the fee I got of $500 'cus when I discovered how popular my
concept had become, it struck me that somebody probably made lots of
money off it and it was not me (just wish I got a dollar for every one
sold!, still 500 bucks to a 19 year old 30 years ago was good money!).
so much! This is a real delight to see it again. Boy, I was not very
talented as an illustrator but the idea was a winner. It's funny
because my sister actually became the designer and runs a company
(BENDER WELLS CLARK DESIGN) that specializes in SIGNAGE in San Antonio.
She's better then I am! :)
am a filmmaker and my most recent film is an animation. I didn't draw
any of it as I have learned to leave the art to people better suited to
it. Still the ideas man, I directed the film which you may like to have
a look at called Rogue Film.
All hail Mark Bender, Creator of the First "Wide Right Turn" Sign.