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Warning: The following contains reference to an illicit form of expression. Its publication here is in no way meant to serve as an endorsement of graffiti or vandalism by Core77, inc., nor does it reflect the views of its management.

When Design and Vandalism Meet: A Brief Case of Graffiti
by A. Rooster

When I was a student in junior high school, I would sit at a dirty desk and, bored by the drone of my English teacher, inscribe my name on the desktop. Since I didn’t really want to trash the desk, I used the eraser end of my pencil and simply "cleaned" the dirt and graphite off the desk, but in the shape of the letters of my tag (or nickname).
This is a recurring practice: in my under-grad years, we always got a kick when people would "white out" portions of the first "d" in "Drop Add" (the sign notifying where to change class selections), so that the sign would give us firm Timothy Leary-style advice.
Last year, we saw that some miscreant brass polishers had shined some letters from the sign outside a certain institute of higher design learning, leaving the "P" and the "T" still dirty, so that a bright and shiny "RAT" was left gleaming to the world. These are more than just nifty, inverse ways to leave one’s mark on society, they’re also methods of sneakiness, an obvious need for all vandals, from the classroom to the street corner.

"Tagmaster, The Briefcase Tagging Machine," by Bob Partington, deals up the ultimate in secrecy with class and style. This singular feat of mechanical design, smoothly placed within an imported, hand-made briefcase, allows you to "paint the town with tags," without worrying about meddlesome misdemeanor charges from the citizenry on patrol or inhaling any of the paint can’s spray-back fumes.

It looks like a plain case from the outside and, when you place it on the ground, you could be any ordinary attorney checking your cell-phone. But, once you flip the switch next to the handle, a small motor kicks in with a low hum and, inside the closed case, an upside down can of bright yellow striping paint passes over a stencil prepared with your individual design. Pick up your briefcase and you’ve left your mark on the ground.

Obviously, this will keep you less than obvious as you fill the world’s obvious need for freedom of baseline expressions.

Bob, a mechanical sculptor from Canada, first envisioned this piece a few years ago, but spent only a few months in its development and construction. He used a remote control motor, a mail ordered solenoid, two mechanical relay switches, Boston gears, different sized chains, two separate power supplies, aluminum rods and mounting plates that he machined himself, and a can of bright, anti-clogging road striping paint. The main hoop: how to fit it all inside a standard sized briefcase.

First, he had to figure out how to keep the overall weight low but with an ample voltage supply to pull a full can of paint. Of course, this power supply needed to be portable. Thankfully, we’re in the midst of the cordless power tool revolution and his 24-volt Bosch drill and saw set had the ideal battery units.

Next, he needed to ensure that he could give exactly enough stroke needed for the back and forth motion of the can. After experimenting with different gears, he decided on two different chains and gear ratios, ingeniously using a smaller stainless steel chain and larger nylon one, the steel one offering smaller sized teeth.

Space is definitely an issue. All this weight had to be level and provide enough even area for the traverse rod, allowing the can to travel back and forth. He also knew that he would need maximum spraying area for the spray to avoid clogging the machinery. Also, everything needed to be accessible and serviceable from one side (the briefcase door side). Finally, he was able to balance everything on their respective sides.

The briefcase also got on his case. He went through several models that proved to be too flimsy before shelling out the ducks for one hand made in England. This one was able to withstand the weight and power, even with the hole cut out of the bottom.

Into this hole your vandal, or anyone with an important message (i.e. "take back the night," "," or "stoop sale at 692 Union St."), can slip her/his cut out stencil and go out to inform the city.

Thoughtfully, he added a safety switch on the bottom to avoid those embarrassing situations when you accidentally hit the main one by the handle en route to your pre-trial conference with the D.A.

Partington can see the day when his case could be mass-produced, maybe as a lighter weight plastic attaché, to provide this service to the masses. Other future developments include the backpack model with a vertical sprayer so your school child can simply lean against the wall, flip the switch on the strap and leave her ad for homework help.

This piece totally conforms to the third commandment of design: "Be Mischievous" and to the fifth: "Facilitate Mischievous Behavior."
And if you got a problem with that, consider this: bright tags all over our sidewalks would be a damn sight bettter that all that used gum.

After a successful showing of the Briefcase at DNA Studios, Crosby Street, NY, NY last month (see New York Times article, "Na’er Do Wells," 8-4-00), you will be able to see more of his work there next year (January, ’01).

For more info, you can contact the designer care of, subject Tagmaster

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