This Way Out: Arrow Collecting, Redux

ghost sign for Bill's bar painted on brick wall
Ghost sign for a ghost tavern, but the arrow’s still there. It was that way to Bill’s, East Vandergrift.

Direction—am I right? Who doesn’t need a little more of it, especially now. The world’s fallen apart, all trust is gone, no one seems to know where they’re going. Someone, anyone—heck, anything—show us the way!

Enter the simple arrow. Yeah, we’ve still got a few of them lodged in the backside, but we love them just the same. The arrow guides us through some of life’s many mysteries with that most basic of graphic forms. It points us clearly this way or that; up, down, and around-the-bend; when we need to start looking and what’s coming up ahead.

old masonry wall with blue arrow with the word "Entrance"
Enter here, below the water line, Wheeling, WV

Four or five years ago, we started collecting great, hand-made arrows painted on walls and plywood boards to direct vehicles toward parking and loading zones, help people locate back entrances, and keep everyone moving the right way. In the resulting story [This Way Out: Arrow Collecting (Aug. 20, 2017)] we waxed on and on about our love for the humble arrow. That description was so complete that we’ll keep the narrative on this sequel short and get you where you’re going.

masonry wall with old painted arrow
J. D’Antonio, that way. Brownsville
exterior of steel mill with directional arrow
Steel mill arrow, Weirton, WV
wide arrow painted on wooden board
Dog-legged/up and over, Homestead
steel door painted with "no parking" and arrow
No parking … but only to right there. Millvale
directional arrow on asphalt layered with a second arrow on top
Double arrow! Monaca
yellow arrow with word "Entrance" painted on it on cinderblock wall
Swooping in for a big entrance, Wheeling, WV
black arrow painted on white cinderblock wall
Down and out in Larimer
long yellow arrow painted on masonry wall
Loooooooong arrow, Burgettstown
red and purple arrow painted on white brick wall
This way to TNT Monster Mechanic, Beaver Falls
multicolor arrow painted on cinderblock wall
Up! Garfield
white arrow painted on masonry wall, overgrown with climbing vines
Overgrown arrow, Squirrel Hill
store entranceway with complex arrow design
Down and around, New Kensington
blue arrow painted on peeling cinderblock wall
Blue arrow, New Kensington
arrow painted on masonry bricks
This way for auto parts, Hill District
arrow with two heads pointed opposite directions and shop hours listed
Take your pick … as long it’s during shop hours, Larimer
black arrow on cracked retail storefront
Arrow simple, East Liberty

This Way Out: Arrow Collecting

yellow arrow painted on weathered plywood, Pittsburgh, PA

Esplen

A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.*

Antoine de Saint-Exupery

"Service & Parts" sign painted in shape of an arrow on brick wall, Pittsburgh, PA

Service & Parts, Manchester

day-glo green arrow painted on dumpster, Pittsburgh, PA

dumpster arrow, Shadyside

Oh, how much simpler life would be if we all just had a little more clear direction. Go that way. Do this thing. It’ll all be O.K.

The arrow is likely the boldest, simplest, and most direct (in a couple different definitions of the word) of visual statements; it is this magic voice from above. Where to go, what choices exist, how to find our way in the world. Without the arrow, we’d all be lost…literally.

tile building facade with number 223 and arrow directing around the back, Homestead, PA

Have you seen the back? 223, Homestead

ghost sign for former La Salle Electric, Pittsburgh, PA

Office this way / Pick-up that way. Former La Salle Electric building (now demolished), Manchester

Constructed with your choice of just three simple lines or as the beefier triangle + rectangle, the form is geometry at its most basic, graphic design boiled down to the last essential elements, universal in both meaning and comprehension. Go that way.

It’s also visually arresting. For such a simple shape, the arrow represents both incredible movement and a certain level of violence. It’s based on–and named after–the form of a projectile weapon, after all. Conflict is inevitable when the point of the spear impacts its target. The inherent tension in this implied collision charges every depiction of the mighty arrow.

detail of arrow painted on the wing of an airplane

airplane arrow, Boeing 737

arrow painted on white brick wall, Pittsburgh, PA

East Liberty

In a news week dominated by talk around the president’s embrace of Nazis, the alt-right, and his no-teleprompter invention of an “alt-left”, we thought it’d be as good a time as any to seek a little clear direction. [For the record, The Orbit has always considered itself alt-down-and-out.]

Here then, are some fine area examples of that most noble of graphic forms: the arrow. May you all get where you’re going.

white arrow painted on brown brick and cinderblock wall, McKeesport, PA

Down and out in McKeesport

sign for brewery entrance with directional arrow painted on bridge support, Pittsburgh, PA

Brewery Entrance, Lawrenceville

red brick house shaped like an arrow, Pittsburgh, PA

arrow house, West End

ghost sign for former Penn Bowling Lanes, Pittsburgh, PA

Penn Bowling Lanes, Downtown

red arrow painted on exterior column, Pittsburgh, PA

Manchester

ghost sign on former hardware store, Pittsburgh, PA

multiple arrow ghost sign: Home Improvement Needs, “The Contractor’s Department Store”, Hill District

detail of store entrance with arrow shape, Etna, PA

store entrance arrow, Etna

former school bus in field of wildflowers painted to advertise F&V Fireworks, Enon Valley, PA

F&V Fireworks, Enon Valley, PA


* Yes, someone needs to enlighten Mr. de Saint-Exupery that it may be she who is making the design decisions.