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What are LED Throwies?

By Jeremy Laukkonen
Updated: May 16, 2024

A light emitting diode (LED) throwie is a small device that is often used in various forms of street art. LED throwies are typically constructed of a colored LED, a battery, and a small rare earth magnet. These relatively inexpensive components are taped or glued together, and then thrown at magnetic surfaces. Light emitting diodes are energy efficient, so LED throwies may remain illuminated for quite some time. They may be thrown randomly at ferromagnetic surfaces such as street signs or traffic light poles, though they can also be utilized in more more organized forms of street art.

The simplest and most inexpensive type of LED throwie can be constructed simply by connecting an LED to a battery and then taping both to a rare earth magnet. This is usually achieved with electrical tape, though using an epoxy adhesive may result in better weather resistance. It is also possible to use additional components to create a throwie that can be turned off, or one that will only turn on when it comes in contact with a magnetic surface.

The components used to construct basic LED throwies are typically inexpensive, potentially allowing a guerrilla artist to assemble a large number of them without a heavy financial investment. The three main components are often available at discounted prices when purchased in bulk, further reducing the cost to create LED throwies. Alterations to the basic design that add additional functionality may raise the cost of the throwies, and also increasing the time required to create them.

In addition to being inexpensive and easily constructed, LED throwies can also be considered a type of non-destructive graffiti. While other forms of street art can damage public or private property and require expensive cleanup efforts, throwies may simply be removed without damaging the underlying structure. The batteries will also run out of power on their own, given enough time.

Many guerrilla artists and technology enthusiasts may choose to simply toss large numbers of LED throwies at the ferromagnetic surfaces of public structures. This can result in a bright, multi-colored type of light art that may be visually appealing in the dark. Others might choose to incorporate LED throwies and other types of LED light art into their street art or other installations. This can include the addition of throwies to an existing piece, or the incorporation of LEDs into a design so that it can offer a different appearance at night.

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Discussion Comments
By LeptonMan — On Sep 13, 2011

My greatest concern with throwies is environmental impact and post project cleanup. While LEDs are individually small, the throwies do contain heavy metal components and the batteries will generally contain mercury.

The throwies left on the public building/structure surface or transportation will end up dispersed throughout the environment and make collection difficult.

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