Let's talk about signage. I know it's not always the point of each piece of protest signage to actuallly be read, but if you're going to bother going through all that work it should be able to broadcast your message to more than the people around you. If you're participating in a march these days (for or against, it doesn't matter) there are likely to be professional journalists and normal old Joes with camera documenting the happenings. Take advantage of your 15 seconds and wave a sign that will actually carry your message past that exact point in time in space.
Here's the problem space you're working within:
To that end, we're going to focus on producing signs that are highly legible and give themselves easily to reproduction in photo and video. Remember: you're not protesting for those around you, you're doing it to get your message out as far and wide as possible.
If there's one thing you can do to make your sign more legible, ensure that it is rendered with high contrast. The urban environment where you will be deploying your sign is already cluttered with bright images that are designed by high paid designers to catch your eye. We call them advertisments and store signs. In light of this, we recommend using white text on a black background or as a close second, black on a white background. If you like, red may be used as it will combat the bluish tint that is caused by atmospheric haze. Conversely, blue should be avoided at all costs despite its peaceful implications. To see what we're talking about look at this image:
First of all, the most prominent parts of the picture are the parking and Virgin signs. The majority of the protest signs are small and executed with blue on white.
Here's the number one thing that is going to make your sign useless: writing it by hand in normal, if big, letting.
Look at the sign on the right. Not only is the font so light that it will be hard to read at a distance of more than a few feet, the author has added underlines and other adornments that are unnecessary. Look, you're marching in the streets, there's no way to make your point more emphatic. Underlines and such only make your sign less legible. When designing aim for something with a very heavy weight to it. These people have done a nice job:
If you dont have the means to print out your text, hand write bubble text and fill it in so you have large, solid letters. Chances are stencils will be too small unless you find automotive stencil sheets. Take a look at this example.
Again, it reads fine at the distance of a few feet, but as soon as that sign gets included in a wide shot it will become illegible.
The sign above also suffers from a message that is not presented clearly enough. The reality of your situation is that you are competing in a world of sound-bites and quips. Organize your sign as such. No one wants to read a manifesto on your posterboard-sign, they'll do that online or in a magazine. Similarly useless are signs which would be better presented at some amateur art gallery:
Your art is not sending much of a message because no one knows what the hell it means. If you want to make your point heard, make it clear. This large banner is quite good in that regard because it makes a clear statement while also providing additional information below: