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Sep 07

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Update on the Ball State College of Architecture and Planning Sign — It’s Still a Joke

Ball State JokeA year ago, I wrote, College of Architecture and Planning Sign Is a Joke. It is in reference to the photo on the left. I didn’t think much about the article at the time, but it has been huge — arguably the most viewed article I’ve ever written. The reason I wrote it was basically political. A lot of people use the picture as “yet another example of how the government can’t do anything right.” And that offends me. So I went searching for information about the photo. There was very little and so I put together what I could find.

Yesterday, there was another explosion of traffic to that page, and I got a very interesting comment from a guy named Dave, “The image is a photoshop fake and the back-story is invented. Here is a genuine shot of the building…” He provided a link to a recent article from Ball State Daily, Ten Signs You’re an Architecture Major. The content of the article has nothing to do with the question at hand, but it does include a picture of building, which I have cropped to highlight the part of the building that is displayed in the original image.

College of Architecture and Planning

To reiterate, this has little to do with my original article. If that photo is digitally altered, then it was indeed a joke. The point of the article was that the College of Architecture and Planning didn’t, as I wrote, throw up its hands and say, “It’s an embarrassment, but there is nothing we can do about it!” No one behaves that way! Whether the sign ever existed hardly matters. Whether it was a designer or a graphic artist, it was intentional. And it was always meant to be humorous. The fact that a lot people don’t see that annoys me. It reminds me of those “ancient alien” shows that are predicated on the idea that humans are dumb.

There is a really clear difference between these two photographs, however. In the original photo, there is a wall on the left side. There is no wall in the new photo. This doesn’t prove that the original photo wasn’t a PhotoShop job. Indeed, it adds some credence. It might have been perfect because the beam had no lettering on it. But why put a wall in? It makes more sense to have the end cut off, not the beginning. But I can’t say.

It is also possible that these photos are from different parts of the building. Or it could even be that they are different buildings — the Bracken Library on the Ball State campus has a similar design. This possibility would almost certainly make it an altered image and not a representation of anything that ever existed.

The one thing that disturbs me is that wall. In my original article, I quoted a Reddit user, “The building was constructed in two parts. One completed in 1972 and the newer part completed in 1982. The newer part includes the wall to the left and the older part is the rest that you see…” The new photo is from the college archives — a similar one by the same photographer (Savannah Neil) was used a year earlier. So maybe the original photo is actually more recent. I actually think so, because the building looks shiny and new. I suspect this photo was from the original shots taken of the building.

It could have been that someone thought they would throw up some letters on the beam temporarily when the expansion was taking place and they thought this was cute. Or maybe it was a prank. I’m rather fond of that idea because it is exactly what you would think a few students at the College of Architecture and Planning would do and think was the funniest thing ever. On the other hand, that beam is very high and would be hard to get to.

The strongest argument for this being a PhotoShop job is that the original image is the only one I’ve found of the sign. There are no others from a slightly different angle or time. But if the building does date back to the early 1970s, then we are talking about a different time. People didn’t have cameras everywhere. Maybe it was pranksters. They took several pictures of it, but this is the only one they hung onto — or at least the only one they bothered to digitize.

Ultimately, all the new photo provides is some indication that this is PhotoShop work. (I’m about 50-50 on the issue right now.) But if it is, that only proves what I was always saying: the people at Ball State are not lazy idiots. The sign — real or digitally created — is still a joke.

Update (8 September 2015)

In the comments, Paul L provided what looks to be the original photo. It contains the letters where you think they would be. And the photo is better: you can clearly see a figure in the window who is vague in the “mistake picture.” So I assume this picture is the original and the mistake picture is a PhotoShop job. If any picture proves it, it is this one — not the picture above that I’m sure is an earlier one.

College of Architecture and Planning - Original, No PhotoShop

Update (14 September 2015 9:05 am)

Here is the video that we have been talking about in the comments:

If you skip to 0:53 in the video, there is a pan up of an image of the sign. It is shockingly like Alien Autopsy in that just before we get to see “the truth” it cuts. I guess we can be happy that it doesn’t go blurry. But it does show that the seam in the metal that the sign is on runs through the second “T” in “ARCHITECTURE.” In what I thought was the original image, the seam goes through the second “C.” As I’ve noted before these are the same exact photographs so one must be a PhotoShop job. And it would seem that the “correct” one is.

I hate being dragged down in the weeds on this. For the umpteenth time: the sign is a joke, not an example of incompetence. That is all I care about.

Permanent link to this article: http://franklycurious.com/wp/2015/09/07/update-on-the-ball-state-college-of-architecture-and-planning-sign-its-still-a-joke/

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38 comments

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  1. Aimee

    I don’t think the picture you cropped is the correct part of the building. The walls are wrong, it connects to the sign on the left on one picture, and the right on the other.

    1. Frank Moraes

      Right. When I first started writing, I thought we we looking at the bottom where the sign is that “new” photo. But that is not correct, as you can see the windows look wrong, are in back of the sign, and other issues (it helps to look at the photo at full resolution). The part I’ve focused on is in fact the right part. That’s why this is so interesting. They apparently did add onto the building. The deeper I go into this story, the more confused I get. But that is the right part of the “new” photo.

    2. Vern

      Is it too far fetched to consider the photo was flipped horizontally before the letters were photoshopped onto it?

      1. Frank Moraes

        At this point, I’d believe anything… If it turned out that Ball State doesn’t even exist, I wouldn’t be surprised.

  2. Paul L

    The plot thickens. This image has the sign corrected, but has a strange figure looking out of the window that is not in all the others.
    http://i.imgur.com/4qrKiIV.jpg

    1. Frank Moraes

      This seems to settle the PhotoShop question. This is a better quality image with the letters in the right place. I assume it would be easy to move them around in PhotoShop and not physically. I’ve always noticed the form in the window. It is just that it is clearer because this is a better image. I’ll add an update to the article. Hopefully, this will all be over soon. You would think the Ball State Daily would have put someone on this a year ago when the image first started appearing! Thanks for finding this image.

      1. Janus Kane

        Just go to Google Maps… the street view shows the sign without error, beneath the overhang where the sign was photoshopped onto.

        I don’t mean to dump on your spirits, as I love your rationality… But this took me less than 2 minutes. Pictures for proof in the website field

  3. Crispy

    There’s also this video which seems believable.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZshMwU2-HCM

    1. Frank Moraes

      Thanks for that. This is more or less what one of the original Reddit people said — almost word-for-word. The problem with it is in the newest image above. And as I think I pointed out in this article, I can’t actually find the “wrong” image going back more than a year or so. But what are we to make of the newest image? Is it PhotoShopped? Because it is the exact same image. One of them has been PhotoShopped. I think I discussed in the first article that it is possible that now even the people at Ball State are relying on folklore about this. As it is, the video references Professor James Underwood for the “oral history.” I would love for the story to be true — partly because he specifically says, “It would be funny” — which was my original point. But it doesn’t seem to be the case. I’m starting to wonder if it isn’t Chris Helms who created the image in the first place.

      There is one thing I’ve been thinking about that is brought up in the video, and was discussed originally on Reddit: the big image above (without the left wall) is not that part of the building. The building is sorta symmetrical, and the part with the sign was on the other side. But that makes the “mistake sign” even less reasonable, because then the new wall wasn’t built and there would have been nothing to change the original sign.

  4. MW

    The “original” photo you posted has Where’s Waldo waving from the window.

    http://www.pleasantondowntown.net/assets/uploads/files/events/da775-new-canaan-waldo.jpg

    Considering Ball State’s own video says “this happened”, I’m inclined to believe the photo is real, and the “original” photo with Where’s Waldo is a photoshop.

    1. Frank Moraes

      Good eye! But all that proves is that the image was taken after 1987. Both images contain the same figure, so it is meaningless to note that the figure is Where’s Waldo. But I did notice something, so I guess I will have to update this damnable article.

  5. Charlie

    Have you looked at the 1:11 moment of video? I see no mention of this. It appears as though this part of the building with the ill placed “C” has been built over. Hmmmm, the plot thickens.

  6. Jim B

    I am speaking as a seasoned photographer and Photoshop user here. I first saw this photo today on Facebook and immediately saw it as a fake and one of average quality (of course, the poster didn’t believe me). If you look at the plane of the brick wall on the left, it mysteriously jogs to the right and undercuts the window. That would mean the wall was widened, but only as high as the bottom of the window. The window frame should actually (and probably did) come to a right angle point like the right side does. There is no break in the brick pattern to indicate the wall gets wider. Plus, the angle of the brick pattern at the top of the “clone” does not match the bottom. Plus, the brick pattern has no contrast, but only in the area where the C was placed. This photo disturbs my sensibilities. It’s funny, but it is a fake to be funny.

  7. janepublic

    It’s Photoshopped. you can see the tell tale drop shadow pixellation around the letters under 500 magnification. I made an addition to the photo to show off but there’s no upload here. :(

    1. Frank Moraes

      Interesting. Do blogs have that capability? That sounds more like a forum. Anyway, we are but a wee website.

      I’m more than willing to believe you. But I have promised myself I will not be dragged back in! Every week or so, there seems to be an argument somewhere about this photo and someone links to this article.

      But, once again: my interest is really not whether or not the image is real. My interest is whether or not it was actually a mistake. Was it the result of bad planning? Clearly it was not. It’s great regardless, and people find it constantly interesting — this has been going on for well over a year now.

  8. Randall Peacock

    Okay people, why is this so difficult to understand? I am completely baffled at the amount of ridiculously incorrect information that has been posted in this small amount of cyber space.

    1. The original image is of the upper portion of the building. Starting at the third floor there is a cantilevered outside corner section of the building that sits within the interior corner formed by two brick walls. You can see this on any street view of the building.

    2. The image in this post showing the “correct” sign is actually the spandex over the door on the first floor. The doors are at the first floor and are parallel with one of the two brick walls forming the inside corner. This is the reason you see brick on both sides of the doorway.

    3. The photoshopped image of the incorrect sign is the “left” side of the cantilevered exterior corner. There are no signs on this third floor section of the building.

    4. The building was expanded in 1982 but the expansion is on the complete opposite side of the building. All of the photos shown in the original and in this post are of the of the original portion of the building.

    5. Simply going to Google Earth will allow you to see the street view of the building.

  9. A Genour

    I’m sorry, but you’ve been had. Your “original photo” in the update, the one with Waldo, is the photoshop, and quite a bad one at that.

    A flip-book style comparison with the original with the mistake will show you how the Waldo photo’s creator has just moved the letters a few pixels to the right – not bothering to retouch elements such as the seam in the panels around the letter “T”. This is the by far biggest tell, and frankly you could stop reading here.

    Animation: http://imgur.com/ofpJnuZ

    But to go on – you’ll also see how the job is rushed, not bothering to align the subtle textures of the metal around the letters with that of the rest of the panel. Also, Waldo’s addition to a clean photo is simple to perform, whereas removing him while preserving the reflection and detail of the dark space where he once was would require significant skill and time. In fact, calculating the pixel difference between the two images reveals that the difference is a perfect rendition of Waldo, something that would be *extremely* difficult to achieve if Waldo was the subject being removed, as you’d have to *perfectly* remove him, down to the tiniest color and texture subtleties.

    I can’t speak to the authenticity of the first photo with the mistake. But I do question the assertion that the update’s “original photo” is of better quality – it is not. The noise pattern or “grain” is almost identical, with the slight addition of JPEG compression artifacts only visible upon a difference comparison and contrast adjustment – I say with confidence that the “original” is sourced from the photo with the mistake. The powers of suggestion are in full force here.

    In conclusion, the “update” photo is fake, and Paul L is a dirty dirty liar :)

    1. Frank Moraes

      For the umpteenth time: I’ve always said it was a joke. I’m agnostic about whose joke it is. The original argument was about how it showed how incompetent academics are. I leave the rest of the argument to the tens of thousands of Reddit users who never seem to get enough of this!

      1. A Genour

        I see I was not clear enough in my post. I’m not discussing the original case of the “C…OLLEGE” sign, or whether it’s a joke. I’m simply pointing out that the 2015-09-08 update claiming to be an “unaltered original photo” featuring a correctly-spaced sign and a Waldo, is a photoshop fake, created by manipulating the “C…OLLEGE” photo that started all of this. That whole update is incorrect. The poster that gave you that update and photo is having a laugh at your expense, and trolling us all.

        I wrote my post because I assumed you would want to update your blog post so as not to disseminate misinformation. As it stands it’s muddying the waters of what actually happened, a recount of which is available in your later 2015-09-14 update.

        For what it’s worth, I’m fairly certain the “C…OLLEGE” photo is real, as suggested by the account in the 2015-09-15 update video by the college in question. And while I suppose it’s possible (although not corroborated by the story in the video) that a photo *could* exist of a correctly-spaced sign, the update photo of 2015-09-08 is certainly not it, as it’s a fake.

        1. Elizabeth

          Explaining a joke ruins the joke you know.

          1. Frank Moraes

            What you are doing is dangerous. I try not to get drawn in. Just the other day, about 2,000 people rushed to this page because another discussion started on Reddit. This happens at least once a month. I could not possibly care less at this point. But apparently, I’m the only one who’s ever cared enough about the subject to lay it all out — twice! Ugh!

            1. Elizabeth

              Well no one is going to disagree you are a dork. :-)

  10. Bruce Keller

    Isn’t it that they added the new brick wall on the left, and it would have covered the ‘C’, so after building the addition, they just stuck on the ‘C’ again, making the joke?

    1. Frank Moraes

      Something along those lines is my theory. As these articles have shown, this picture means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. My interest in it is only that it isn’t the result of bad planning but rather an explicit joke. There are many people who want to believe that it is the result of actual bad planning. I think a lot of that is just people who have a problem with colleges and want to believe the myth of the “educated fool.” Regardless of what happened with the remodel of the building, there were many ways to deal with it. Those in charge decided to make it a joke. Which is great!

  11. Sean R.

    I was showing this to a friend and stumbled on this article. I was a student in the building in question. I can tell you 100% the c in College is on the brick wall and not on the metal with the rest of the letters (at least last I have heard from a friend that still lives in Muncie). As for the original post, the first picture is correct (the delivery/side entrance off of Neely Ave.), while the second picture is of the main entrance (off of McKinley).

    I can’t comment on whether the C being placed on the brick was a joke or not, as no one in the building or on campus can answer that (I lean towards joke, as the planners on campus have had a lot of fun with the buildings over the years – the aerial view of the library looks like a stack of books, the architecture building looks like a drafting table, the performance hall looks like a piano, etc) I’m sure most people are long past this, just thought I would add a first person account to the mix.

    1. Frank Moraes

      For the right person, it could turn into an obsession. But it’s really very simple for me. I grew up around builders. The letters are a trivial amount of money compared to the remodel, much less the building. But had no one cared, they would have simply cut the “C” off. But for the college of planning? It’s a brilliant joke and object lesson.

  12. Sarah

    The building is genuine. It’s on Clarence Street, York, England. The signage was originally like that, I remember as I passed it twice a day on the bus to and from work. York residents were told that it was a joke by the college. I’m unsure if they have since corrected it as I moved away 6 years ago

    1. Frank Moraes

      In general, I don’t respond to comments on this because I’m so tired of this story. But really?! This is the first I’ve head of it.

      The only reason I wrote about this in the first place was because so many people were claiming that it was just an error. Regardless of where it is and how it came to be, the people involved thought, “This will be funny.”

  13. Rob

    You are clearly a Big Edu shill. Wake up sheeple!!!1!!

    1. Frank Moraes

      I understand this to mean that my claim that this is a joke is an effort to protect pointed headed intellectuals. You aren’t far wrong; but you are wrong. It is my effort to protect human beings, who are overall pretty smart. Even if it was a mistake, the builders didn’t fix it because they thought it was funny. The original article was based on my experience with other humans — even ones I don’t think that highly of.

      In the discussion of this image on reddit before I wrote about it, a lot of people wanted to believe that others were just stupid. I don’t want to live in that world. Lucky for me: I don’t have to. Humans are hardly perfect, but on the whole, not a bad lot. Not a bad lot at all.

      1. James Fillmore

        Could just be a joke about the silly word “sheeple.” Which, whenever I hear it, makes me think of the sheep in Aardman animations. Who are quite smart!

        Here’s a fun thing I read recently. Mules aren’t stubborn; they’re smart, and have better eyesight/smell than horses. So if a mule sees a path is too treacherous to walk on safely, or smells a pack of predators in an oncoming direction, they’re really hesitant to move. A horse might not smell predators that sharply; they don’t really need to, they can run super fast. Donkeys/mules don’t run fast, so they rely on better smell for a warning sign, and better eyesight to make it into difficult terrain most predators can’t follow.

        1. Frank Moraes

          I came upon a mule fan site just the other day. It was fascinating. Mules also don’t bolt when they get scared. They seem to appraise the situation. They may then bolt. But as a result, people are not nearly as likely to be hurt by a mule. This is one of many reasons why mules are used in the Grand Canyon. They are also far more surefooted. They are also (in my experience) much quieter than donkeys. That’s the one thing I don’t like about donkeys!

          1. James Fillmore

            There is a large population of feral donkeys in Custer National Park, in the Black Hills. They are smart and hugely aggressive. They don’t attack people, but they will block roads and surround your car and butt their heads against the window until you roll it down and throw some food out far enough for them to chase it. Smart, annoying SOBs.

            1. Frank Moraes

              I love that! I’d hate to live through it. But I love it.

  14. Bill

    Came here because the BSU video was referenced in the following article:

    http://gizmodo.com/7-more-viral-photos-that-are-totally-fake-1784250989

    I then clicked your link in the comments.

    I thought I had missed something when I attended Ball State 2000-2002. I wonder if some of the profs I still know could shed some light on this. I’ll let you know.

  15. Todd

    As a former BSU architecture student in the 80s I can tell you the sign was in fact cut off when they made the addition to the building. It wasn’t fixed when I graduated in 88. Not sure when they fixed it but at some point they did fix it.

  16. ADB

    Clearly, you did something in a previous lifetime that you are now paying for. Man oh Manischevitz…this article is like purgatory for you. lol

    1. Frank Moraes

      Yep. I’m trying to figure out what it is. But it was bad. Not doubt about that!

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