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Welcome to the first installment of a series of blog posts that provide sign tips. Based on a presentation that we gave at the ABX 2015 expo, each of these posts dives into one useful topic or interesting nugget of knowledge in the world of architectural, wayfinding, and ADA signage.


Tip #1: Sign Program Scoping
Signs you must have on your project. . . and signs you should have


ADA stair signs


The first question that we are often asked when discussing a sign program with someone is “What is required? What do we need in terms of signage?” There are, of course, some signs in a sign program that are required by various building and fire codes – for instance elevator machine rooms, restrooms, electrical/mechanical room, the fire command center, etc.

In addition, there is an OSHA rule governing exit doors, specifically, that any door that may be confused with an exit needs to say “Not an exit” or indicate what it is. So, if you have a door to a janitor closet that is right next to an exit door, that janitor closet needs to be clearly identified as a janitor closet, or it needs a “Not an exit” sign.

Beyond that, signs are needed at most interior rooms, for operational, wayfinding, and maintenance needs. The signs at these interior rooms need to comply with the ADA – meaning that they need raised lettering of a certain size, braille, and appropriate color contrast between the lettering and background. In other words, ADA legislation doesn’t mandate where you need signs; rather, you need signs for the general operation of your building, and the regulations state that those signs need to be ADA compliant.

That is what is required from a code perspective. Obviously, signage and environmental graphics may have other requirements, including branding, navigation, and operational needs. Asking “what is required” tends to lead folks done a very limited examination of code required signage, while ignoring or forgetting about other important signs.

A library would be considered code compliant and having all required signage if restrooms, stairs, and rooms are all identified. None of the identification and navigation signs are required by code, but it would be very difficult to effectively use a library without knowing how to find the periodicals or the reference desk.

So, when thinking about scope, be sure to think about signage holistically, and that the sign program addresses all code, operational, navigational, and branding requirements for your project.


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