A Decoder Ring for Those Mysterious Markings on Your Street

Jimmy Stamp decodes the mysterious color-coded markings used by public works departments around the country to indicate underground infrastructure.
May 8, 2013, 7am PDT | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
Share Tweet LinkedIn Email Comments

"Cities around the world are covered in spray-painted hieroglyphics and cryptic designations scrawled on public surfaces; unintelligible tags and arcane signs intended to communicate messages to a specialized audience with a trained eye," observes Stamp. "You’ve probably seen these markings on streets and sidewalks. Multi-colored lines, arrows and diamonds denoting the presence of some subterranean infrastructure or encode instruction for construction or maintenance workers."

"While just as esoteric (though not as artistic) as illegal graffiti, these regulated utility markings encode a different type of turf. And knowing that Krylon code can save lives. Such urban annotation reveals the danger and complexity of American cities and is just one more example of the standardized, secret signs that surround us."

Full Story:
Published on Friday, April 26, 2013 in Smithsonian
Share Tweet LinkedIn Email