Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Wednesday search challenge (1/16/13): What's the story of the yellow guy?

Every so often someone will write in with a fun search challenge.  And a while ago, regular reader Dave M., send in this question:

Enclosed is a picture I took in downtown Chicago while crossing the street.  The YELLOW blotch on the crosswalk looks like a little man to me.  I didn't think it very significant until I was on a trip to Washington D.C. where I saw the YELLOW blotch again in the crosswalk.  Now I am on a mission to get an explanation. 

I was able to figure this one out in about 3 minutes.  

How long will it take you?  What's the story with the yellow blotch?  

Also... a quick reminder:  If you're a regular reader of this blog, you'll probably enjoy the MOOC that I'll be running beginning next Wednesday, Jan 23, 2013.  It's the "Advanced Power Searching With Google" Massive Open Online Course (MOOC).  This class will cover some of the advanced research methods that we discuss in the blog every week. 

Sign up now and join in the fun.  

Search on! 


  1. This is Stikman! It's street art by an anonymous artist from Philadelphia (called either Stikman, Stickman, or Bob), and I found a great article on this series at this site:

    My search was [street art crosswalk yellow man].

    It took me about 30 seconds (if that) because I saw "Exit Through the Gift Shop" a few years ago, and also had the pleasure of seeing a bunch of the Invader ( pieces in Paris last year.

  2. For several years people have been fascinated by small, robot-like figures popping up in city streets and other innocuous places. These figures, now documented in flickr pools and blog posts from cities arose the world, can be attributed to Stikman (sometimes searched for and referred to as "stickman"), an anonymous graffiti artist, sometimes perhaps going by the alias "Bob," who has been putting these images up since at least 2006.

    Search for 'painted yellow man robot' yielded 'stickman' for a better explanation.

    About 3 minutes

  3. Stikman!

  4. stikman... didn't need to search

  5. A Google image search of the term "yellow stencil man crosswalk" gave me this result: That led me to Took about two minutes. Great challenge, there are many of these around my workplace in DC

  6. Its a Stikman. Done with sticky tape by maybe a graffiti artist of that moniker and/or other people.

    This gives a good explanation

    It took me the time it took to ask Search for [yellow figure crosswalk] 20 seconds or so

    Then asking Images for [stikman] to find many more across the US.


  7. Took around 5 minutes.

    Google image search for "yellow robot man sidewalk" and filtered for yellow images.
    Found this link:
    Looks like someone else has been asking the same question!

    Found that he is called the "Stikman" from one of the comments.
    A search for stikman led me to the washington post article:
    So, apparently the creator "Bob" does it for kicks.

    And here is more:

  8. Started with an image search [pedestrian killed] then [pedestrian killed crosswalk] until [pedestrian killed crosswalk mark yellow] and realized I was assuming too much.

    Backtracked and image searched for [crosswalk skeleton]

    Got it.

    This blog post had a lot of comments
    Included was a link to my hometown newspaper regarding the image here

    I'm not happy with this result because the reporter didn't necessarily research his story and just took Bob at his word that he created it.

    I'll need to do more research on this after work.

  9. Street art -

  10. Got lucky I guess - quick find, used [yellow figure in crosswalk] and the top hit was this:
    seemed pretty thorough with video & links to Flickr & WaPost stories...
    even found a twitter page for stikman:
    Stik's older uncle? -
    kilroy was
    time to find: 10 seconds
    time to check links & do other support search: ≈10 minutes

  11. This one was pretty simple. My initial search was [street art chicago yellow robot]. The first result was which gave me a blog entry. While there is no real information there about what it is, the page does confirm the same image and provides a clue to the creator, who is 'stikman'.

    Then a search for [stikman] leads to an article ( in the Washington Post about stikman, his street art, and the mystery surrounding his sticker art.

    The author interviews the alleged creator, simply referred to as Bob, who says he has left about 150 stikmen figures/creations in DC alone. Another article on Vandalog ( estimates that stikman has been at it for 20 years.

  12. It only took a couple of minutes. I did a search for "yellow robot tag crosswalk" without quotes. The first link that came up was: and the second reply to the original post led me:

    From there I had the name of the artist and was able to find his flickr pool:

  13. 1. Google Search by Image - no results, of course, but I had to try
    2. Still on Image Search, [yellow crosswalk stencil man] gave me one result only, the same question posted on a forum some 4 years ago:
    3. From the answers I could derive the name Stikman
    4. [Stikman], uncorrected (because Google corrected it to Stickman) first result:, very informative
    5. Still, I wanted to read more about the 20 years of Stikman exhibition, so I followed the Pandemic Gallery link ( and crtl+F to find this post by Stikman himself on the opening of the exhibition:

    Fast (a few minutes) but very interesting! I like street art and I didn't know Stikman. The first link on the vandalog post takes you to a huge amount of photos of Stikman's art:

  14. I think this is an example of Stickman art. I first tried doing an image search that didn't work so next I did a search for yellow figure in crosswalk and the first result was for an article on Stickman art. Very interesting reading about this type of art. I had never heard of this before. Took me about 5 mins.

    The road stickers are just one aspect of the stikman project that was started 20 years ago. The artist “Bob” (who has remained anonymous throughout) had a solo exhibition at pandemic gallery in NYC this past Spring. The stikman project began with 3D stick figures (hence the name) affixed to city elements and has since branched out to stencils, hidden components in posters and, of course, the road stickers.

  16. Took me about 30 secounds:

    First search: street yellow man stencil
    Adjusted to: street yellow man grafett

    and that was a hit: Stikman

  17. It is known as the stikman and is made by street artists. Took me about five minutes

  18. Search for images [yellow man on the street]

    Find a similar to the challenge:

    Reverse image on that image:

    Epigraph in the right picture: Stickman on the sidewalk

    Search for: [Stickman on the sidewalk]:

    less than 3 minutes.

  19. Hi Dan, and thanks for making a little simpler this time around . . . Simple search brought up lots of links describing these shapes and their background [yellow figure painted in crosswalk] Took me only seconds. Am I missing something?

  20. ooops! guess I was being cocky & wrong... apparently the "yellow blotch" is Lance Armstrong's reputation becoming one with the asphalt.
    used news search function and extrapolated the subtle bike humor used in the Windy & D.C. - confirmed with GooMaps that the figure in the photo is pointed toward Paris and using the Google tread tool, was able to identify that the faint tire pattern was from a 1971 Citroën DS.
    Lost track of the time as I started a 6 week holiday - Adieu & Mahalo

  21. Well I finally solved one with two clicks of the mouse. Maybe three, or four.
    They are called stikman and maybe 'Bob' made some of them.

    I just put [little yellow man on the street] in the search box and got a blog from Boston University.

    and they linked to a WaPo article from 2008 that explains them.

    "Created by an unknown guerrilla street artist from corrugated plastic, vinyl records, burlap sacks or scraps of wood, metal or cloth, the robot figure, dubbed stikman, can be seen all over town."

    So they are a street art in the Banksy style.

    For more on street art also try

    Looking forward to the MOOC next week.

  22. These are street art placed by an anonymous artist. This link takes you to an article in the Washington Post in 2008 perhaps there is more recent information, but I wasn't interested in searching further. I Googled yellow robot on pavement and this took me to entries for Stickman or stikman as the artist prefers. It took about 10 minutes.

  23. With a verbatim Google search on [crosswalk "yellow man"], I found on Flickr that this little yellow man on the crosswalk is called “stikman” or “stickman”.

    It was easy to find more details on this street art.
    On the Trail of the Mysterious Stikman:
    Stikman - a Look at Mysterious Stickman Street Art in Crosswalks:
    Keep an eye out for Stikmen in the crosswalk:
    Has 'stikman' left his mark?:
    Stikman 20.1: Celebrating 20 Years in Philly at Stupid Easy Gallery:

    1 minute

  24. This appears to be the work of stikman from Philadelphia.

    Time about 2 minutes using "Yellow man crossing" in image search. This lead me to flickr which lead me to TimeOut Chicago.

  25. Well, I wasted a bit of time trying to use image search. Then I went a bit more left-brained and searched for [yellow man pavement] which didn't seem to bear much useful fruit. Then I tried

    [yellow robot pavement]

    And the top hit was this

    Then I searched for just stikman and got lots of hits.

    Even though Stikman, the artist appears to preserve his/her? anonymity that doesn't prevent gallery shows

  26. I was interrupted so not able to keep track of how long it took, but I'm sure it was only a few minutes. I dropped the image into google image search, but that wasn't helpful. But I thought as I was doing it that the image was so small in relation to the picture that it might be hard. So then I cropped out most of the crosswalk and did an image search again. Still no luck, so I started adding words to my image search. I started with crosswalk. still nothing. Then I added Washington, one of the cities where it was seen. When I did this google suggested D.C. and robot. I thought to myself, yes, it looks like a robot. So I tried that. That brought me to a discussion on entitled "What are these stickers of robot-like men at intersections...." Bingo. I clicked on the discussion and found a link to an article in the Washington Post entitled "On the Trail of the Mysterious Stikman."

    They're apparently street art created by an anonymous artist called stikman and they've been spotted in many major U.S. cities. My guess would be that some of them are knock offs. They are often, but not always, yellow.

  27. Stikman streetart - Took me a few minutes...

    Began searching on Google with the term: little yellow man crosswalk

    Read some of the postings and found out that they are called stikman. They appeared on many streets. Somebody wrote that people died at this specific location, but I did not find any proof for this argument.

  28. stikman

    About 30 seconds, first result for for "yellow crosswalk man" came to this:

    which led to this:

  29. Searched: Whats with the yellow guy and came up with this
    which had several more credible links.

  30. My original post was for some reason not posted. I guess it was because I didnt see right the first Captcha. So here it is again.

    [yellow guy mark crosswalks chicago]

    Found: Stikman - a Look at Mysterious Stickman Street Art in Crosswalks

    Your image adding text [Stikman]
    Found: On the Trail of the Mysterious Stikman

    20 years of Stikman


    What's the story with the yellow blotch?
    A: Stikman. "Bob" Created this Street Art in 1992 and has more than 150 pieces of art. "The goal is not to provoke, Bob says, but simply to cause those gazing down to pause and wonder."

    See you in the MOOC, Dr. Russell. Have a great week

  31. Oddly enough, there may have been tire tacks off a mis-shoed Peugeot 403 cabriolet over the yellow blotch too.... starting to think there is a shadowy Stinkman involved in all these street appearances. Maybe it's an East coast thing, but I did see that Stikman has been spotted in multiple SF locations - Dan, do you have any first hand exposure?

  32. Search: yellow man in crosswalk brought up all kinds of stuff on Stikman street art.
    About two min.

  33. 1. Did an image search for [stick figure crosswalk] and filtered to the color yellow. The yellow man image came up on the second result, which I clicked on.

    2. That took me to a Flickr Hive Mind page. From there, I clicked on the first image, which took me to its home Flickr page

    3. Then I clicked on the Flickr group one commenter suggested, which included a description of robot/ghost/stikman tiles.

    4. I switched over to Web search for [stickman crosswalk] and found the top result about it being street art by an anonymous artist who goes by the name Stikman or Bob.

    5. After I found the answer, I typed my initial query into the Web search [stick figure crosswalk], and the article came up as the first result. I definitely should have tried a general web search first. Still, it took me under 5 minutes with the image+ general search. It was nice to have a faster challenge this time!

  34. The stikman creator is anonymous. Attributed to a man calling himself "Bob," who considers himself "an artistic Johnny Appleseed, spreading stikmen instead of seeds."
    Seen in Washington DC, Boston, Hollywood, Philadelphia, Wheeling, WV, Ann Arbor, and Minneapolis, Chicago and San Francisco.

  35. I see a lot of you searched with the word [crosswalk]. We don't use that word. I tried [crossing] and [pedestrian crossing] in my searches and found him.
    Pam, NZ

    1. That's an excellent point--even everyday words (like "crosswalk") often have variants in other languages / cultures (even for "English," which has well-known variations between local instances).