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The Heimlich Maneuver, Reimagined With Unicorns

Choking posters are required by law, but they need not be boring

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Big Gay Ice Cream

Hopefully you’ll never need to use the Heimlich maneuver, but if you do, it’s pretty vital to know the right way to perform it. That’s why 12 states have laws requiring all food service establishments to display step-by-step instructions on how to save someone from choking.

But the first-aid posters typically provided by state health departments — while certainly helpful — are generic and institutional at best, which can be a real bummer for a restaurant that’s gone to great lengths to consider every aspect of its decor, from the plates down to the toilet paper holders.

Thankfully, a number of artists have taken it upon themselves in recent years to reimagine the choking poster — particularly in NYC, where the posters have been required since 1978 — incorporating everything from unicorns and dance steps to mohawks and palm trees. (Many of them are also for sale to the public, in case you’d like to outfit your kitchen with one just to be on the safe side.)

Here now, a look at some of the artsy Heimlich maneuver posters ensuring diners don’t choke to death on their food — and doing it in style, no less.

Graphic designer Grey Jay created this fanciful version, which shows people how to perform the Heimlich like dance steps, for an erstwhile Argentinian restaurant in NYC called Malbec and Tango House:

Equal & Opposite

The same graphic designer is also behind this poster, which though remarkably close to the standard Department of Health versions, features a choking victim sporting a mohawk:

Equal & Opposite

At Comic-Con 2012 in San Diego, Fox handed out this design featuring the cast of Bob’s Burgers. (If I’m ever unlucky enough to need the Heimlich, I can only hope it’s performed by someone wearing pink bunny ears like Louise.)


It’s hard to beat the choking poster found inside Manhattan’s Big Gay Ice Cream. Designed by illustrator Jason O’Malley, it features not only Bea Arthur (the shop has a special cone named for her) but also a unicorn:


New York artist Benjamin Wright Coleman created this rather sensual take on the usual Heimlich instructions. Unlike the usual DOH poster, this is something a patron might actually pay attention to:

Benjamin Wright Coleman

Brooklyn restaurant Sunshine Co. hired illustrator Lars Antal to design this comic-inspired take on the choking poster, which features a man saving his date after she chokes on a martini olive:

Antal is also behind this fantastic Day of the Dead-inspired choking poster for chef Alex Stupak’s NYC taqueria Empellón Al Pastor:

Lars Antal

Lucky Peach did their own rendition, featuring a human bravely saving a Swamp Thing-esque monster from choking on a fish:

Lucky Peach

This nautical-themed version from NYC creative agency Secret Handshake wouldn’t look out of place at a waterfront bar or restaurant:

Secret Handshake

Brooklyn artist Alex Holden came up with this vintage-looking choking poster, which is hung inside NYC lox and eggcream purveyor Russ & Daughters Cafe:

Alex Holden

NYC ice cream shop Morgenstern’s Fine Ice Cream manages to turn its required choking instructional poster into a classy work of Renaissance-style art, courtesy of artist Jessica Che:

Morgenstern’s Fine Ice Cream

Morgenstern’s actually has a trio of unusual choking posters from Che for sale on its website, including this one that has a vaguely Art Deco, dreamy vibe to it (it’s still fully compliant with local regulations, however):

Morgenstern’s Fine Ice Cream