There’s one item you can find in most restaurants from New York to California: a poster telling you how to save someone who’s choking. Though required by law in many states, those simple instructions tend to fade into the wallpaper. New York City’s official poster was designed by Steve Duenes, the graphics director of The New York Times. It clearly lists the steps of how to perform the Heimlich maneuver next to greyscale illustrations of a couple going through the motions.
But in the past few years, New York City restaurant owners have started replacing Duenes’ poster with new ones designed by local artists, illustrators, and graphic designers. “So many restaurants are so aesthetically focused,” says Sonja Sharp, a reporter who recently wrote about these new posters for the The Wall Street Journal. “When you have those posters from the Department of Health, it really sticks out."
And Bea Arthur giving the Heimlich to a unicorn? Justin O'Malley's crazy version may be a step too far. “Having worked in a restaurant, [the poster] is important to have because you panic,” says Lara Antal. “It would be nice if you look at something and it doesn’t induce more panic.”
Duenes isn’t sold on the more adventurous interpretations, either. “I haven’t conducted any research,” he admits, “but it seems unlikely that people would be so engaged by a comic-style choking poster that they will make their way through the whole thing and know what to do in an emergency.” Still, even Duenes’ official version features a little joke. That choking victim is a friend of his – just don’t ask him to reveal who it is.