What, You Think Stickers Just Grow on Trees?

One can eliminate money from a society but can never eliminate value. Cash is, after all, only one form of currency. In Black Rock City, there are nearly endless ways to recognize value, especially with one’s time, attention, or assistance.

But there is another important tool used in our fair city to honor an object, experience, or person: the gift. And no gift is more loved in Black Rock City than The Sticker.

Hear me out.

When each car drives into Black Rock City, they are handed 3 things: a booklet of events, a tip sheet, and a sticker. The Sticker is the one item every single person is gifted when they come to BRC. It is the proto-gift. The first introduction to a city of giving and receiving without expectation.

But The Sticker, in its own nature, is something more. It is a self-adhesive singular celebration giving permission to modify. To go change something. To make an impact.

This is the gift everyone is given in Black Rock City: the gift of permission to create. And it starts with The Sticker.

The Sticker, unlike time or attention, continues well beyond the moment of transaction. Unlike cash, The Sticker, once received, does not lie in wait as potential, but makes an impact every single moment of its existence. It is an act of speech that echoes until the message is bleached blank by the sun.  In this way, the greatest role of The Sticker is not in the momentary transaction at Burning Man but in the long tail of its impact in the outside world. I can’t be the only Burner who was drawn to the then-mysterious “BRC” stickers showing up on cars in the early 2000s, well before I drank the kool-aid. Even today when I notice I’m driving behind a car with a sticker from the event, I cannot stop myself from driving up besides the car and waving to the driver like an idiot.

The Sticker, more than any other object, is the hallmark of our community. It is a gift. It is permission. It is invitation. It is a celebration.

So why the heck am I rambling on about stickers? Simple. Because we make a ton of them. Like, a lot.

You’re probably aware that Burning Man prints a design or two each year that is given away to every participant as part of the Greeter’s Packet. You may not be aware that we also print a metric crapton of other stickers too.

Hundreds of thousands of them. Of all kinds. We print up to 15 different designs each year to be given away in Black Rock City. And where do they all go? They go to you.

We distribute packets through Theme Camps, leave them at Ranger Stations and Playa Info, and with Mutant Vehicle operators. I, myself, have been known to head out on a golf cart with several thousand stickers only to return empty-handed after an hour of what I call “drive-by swagging”. From a small office located somewhere around Center Camp, these stickers diffuse out throughout the city and then, like seeds spread by birds, are moved around globe when they are taken home in all your shit.

But here’s the kicker: We don’t make the designs. You do. And now is the time to start getting crafty on images for the 2017 event. Each year, about a hundred designs are submitted and the staff and volunteers at Burning Man headquarters select about a dozen to print for the year. One sticker design out of those submitted is selected each year as the “not really official” sticker of the year and given to every Burner at the Greeter Station as they arrive. A handful of the other designs will also be turned into sticker schwag sprinkled throughout BRC randomly (Immediacy! Gifting!) and shared with Burners all year round. Help us remember our wonderful home in the desert even when we’re away!

Whichever type of sticker tickles your fancy (or maybe you’re very ticklish and want to enter several designs), remember there is a theme, and we like stickers that attempt to use the theme. Read up on the 2017 Art Theme: Radical Ritual

So, now is your chance to create the currency of Black Rock City, and to have your art give used to share value with thousands of others. Your design can be the important gift of the year. Interested? Read below for the specs for submitting your design(s).

Design Specs:

Your design(s) will need to be one of three die sizes:

  • 3” Diameter Circle
  • 2.5″ x 5.75” with a 0.125” corner radius
  • 3″x 3″ square with a 0.062” corner radius

You must OUTLINE all fonts.

If using 1–3 colors, set up the file to print as PMS. If using 4 or more colors, set up the file to print as CMYK.

Designer Tips ‘n’ Tricks:Burning Man sticker, 2008

Round stickers are given priority for being selected as the coveted “Greeter Sticker”, which goes out to ALL Black Rock Citizens. Including both the name “Burning Man” or “Black Rock City” and the year 2017 in your design gets you extra awesome brownie points (and a better chance of your image being used for the Gate Design).

Submitting Your Art:

Send either a PDF file OR (preferably) the original Adobe Illustrator (.ai) file to stickers@burningman.org. Whether sending your design or questions, please put your first and last name in the subject header as well as the phrase “2017 Sticker Submission”.


Monday, May 29. No art can be accepted after this date!

About the author: Zac Cirivello

Zac Cirivello

Zac has been managing teams in Black Rock City since 2010. He spent three years as a part of Burning Man’s Communications team developing the organization’s voice as a nonprofit and driving strategy behind key communications initiatives. He studied Environmental Science and spent a decade producing events and festivals focused on arts, community development, sustainability, and food. As Operations Manager for Fly Ranch, Zac oversees communications, community engagement, affiliations and site operations for the project.

27 Comments on “What, You Think Stickers Just Grow on Trees?

  • Walt Satan says:

    I would’ve thought including 2017 would get extra brownie points, not 2016.

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  • S. Bird says:

    I have NEVER ONCE been given a sticker upon my arrival at Burning Man, and I’ve been going since 2000. I’ve ended up with some, but that’s it. I have several of those stupid tooth breakers in my desk drawers, if anyone wants to trade….

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  • Ranger Ralph says:

    Already working on it, Zac. And, hey S. Bird, if you let me know how to get in touch with you, I’ll send you a bunch of one of the winning stickers from 2016’s Da Vinci’s Workshop. How’s that for the Playa providing?

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  • Krusty says:

    I live in a city named Bradenton with a very active runners club. When those black/white initial stickers became popular, they started putting ones that said “BRC” on their cars. I had no idea there is a club here with initials “BRC,” so the first time I saw a car with one, I freaked out with excitement. Ended up in a very interesting stoplight conversation… (I also started attending in 2004 and have never gotten a sticker at the gate)

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  • AB says:

    Been desperately looking for the 2014 greeter sticker; I didn’t get one & my husband lost his. It was the first year we attended. This would have been our 4th had world politics not got in the way..
    Does anyone have an extra one?
    A dinner in Dubai on us :)

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  • Tourist says:

    When I was a child, I used to collect stickers, thousands of them! Now, my inner child prints 2,500 oval black and white “burner” stickers each year and my friends and I distribute them on the playa. The thrill of putting a smile on another burners face is priceless.

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  • squishelle says:

    Fun fun! Super happy to see one of my sticker designs on that coffee machine: “Burner on Board”. Always a treat to see one of the back of a car, especially if I don’t know the driver!
    I also did a remake of the “I’m kinda famous at Burning Man” which I think is just perfect, since hey, we’re all kinda famous at Burning Man! I used to make buttons in my early years, then switched to stickers. Longer lasting impact. Good luck with this year’s sticker fun!

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  • Mark M.L. McCormack says:

    Best sticker ever seen at Burningman on the back of a pick up – My best vacation is your worst nightmare – Burningman.

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  • Zac Cirivello says:

    To clarify: The annual stickers are tucked inside the ‘What Where When Guides’. It’s completely understandable for one to not even open that booklet but that’s where you’ll find them (unless you come well before the event begins, in which case we have other ways of getting stickers to you.)

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  • Nancy Lawson says:

    Love the 2016 sticker which rides the west on our RV (HaRVy). Unfortunately the sun totally destroyed it. Any way to make them last longer?

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  • Craig Sorensen says:

    So, I have to come out of the closet and admit I don’t have a clue how to work in adobe or similar programs. I do have a winning idea for a sticker, hand drawn. Can I submit the drawing or is there someone available to help me learn a drawing program?

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    • Zachary Cirivello says:

      It has been known to happen before.

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    • Steve Farris says:

      Craig, get in touch with me at stevefarris@gmail.com. I have mad Adobe Creative Cloud skills and would love to collaborate with someone on an idea. (I currently don’t have any graphic design work coming in so it’d be nice to have any kind of project just to stay sharp) These stickers aren’t terribly complicated, so I could put something together for you pretty easily.

      P.S. That goes for the rest of youse guys!

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  • Pantsless Santa says:

    I would submit that the friendly welcome supplied by Gate staff is the first gift anybody receives upon arrival on the playa.

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  • Dave says:

    The first sticker i get is the one i now have to pay for the privilage park well before i get to the gate…..so this article didnt even mention those…

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  • Kat Haber says:

    TEDxVail will highlight design at Burning Man’s Smithsonian exhibit launching in 2018. We’d love to create an memorable Xperience of previous playa burns with a collage of Burning Man stickers. If interested in playaing and have-stickers-will-share,

    Kat Haber
    C/O Game Creek Club
    278 Hansen Ranch Road
    Vail, CO 81657

    Thanks for your generosity in sharing Xtra stickers!

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  • Joe burner says:

    Classic examples of the Burning Man pyramid of exploitation. Free work asked of illustrators and designers. No payment besides “exposure” for the skilled time.

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