How Interior Signage Systems Have Changed Over the Years

By |

Table of contents

Signage systems have been around as a means of communication ever since the beginning of civilization when human beings banded together as tribes and started settling down close to the rivers. As trade and commerce evolved, signage became even more useful.

For nearly four millennia, starting from 3,000 BC and thereafter during Egyptian, Greek, and Roman civilizations and the middle ages, signage systems became the only advertising medium for businesses to flourish.

At the turn of the 18th century, new technologies such as the industrial printing press, gas lighting, and electricity began to emerge, which gave shape to modern interior signage systems. These developments provided artisans with a variety of new options to produce signs, and creativity became important to attracting the attention of the public.

Interior Signage Systems in the 20th Century

The technological revolution and mass production techniques following the Second World War gave rise to new materials and new forms of interior signage systems.

Dramatic advancements in plastics technology made it easy and affordable to produce high-quality, durable, and attractive interior signs in large volumes. The advent of colored translucent plastics and new processes, materials, designs, and finishes changed the face of the interior signage industry.

The manufacture of plastic interior signage systems required lower investments, which led to the emergence of hundreds of small signage companies in the 1950s. By the early 1970s, interior signage came to be recognized for its vital role in the success of large buildings. With cities growing in complexity, many public areas and buildings acquired an overwhelming size and intricacy.

Due to these factors, the demand for professional quality, well-designed, and aesthetically attractive interior signage systems grew to help visitors who were unfamiliar with a facility or site to find their way around. The signage industry today has an estimated annual turnover of more than $50 billion. Hundreds of signage materials, sizes, and colors are available now.

But with all the technological changes, the thing that has remained constant through the history of civilization is that signs are still an effective means of communication.

Evolution of ADA-Compliant Interior Signage Systems

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed by Congress in 1990 as the country’s first comprehensive civil rights law focusing on the needs of people with disability.

Following the initial legislation, the government promulgated the Standard for Accessible Design in 2010. The updated Accessibility Guidelines were published in the Federal Register in 2011 and became mandatory for all construction and facilities alteration projects in 2012.

The ADA legislation has made a key impact on various aspects of interior signage systems required in public buildings. The building owner’s first priority now is to ensure that facilities are equally accessible to all visitors and tenants, including people with disabilities. Building owners are required to ensure that the signs are compliant with the ADA regulations so that they do not have to face stiff penalties.

ADA signs have both tactile and Braille elements to meet the needs of vision impaired as well as blind individuals. ADA compliance requirements are complex and detailed with regard to the design and construction of the tactile and Braille elements, and building owners must choose astute and experienced interior signage companies to ensure compliance and have the signs that add value to their buildings and facilities.

Emergence of Photopolymers as an Interior Signage Material

Photopolymer technology has transformed the signage industry and led to the creation of stellar, attractive, and durable ADA-compliant interior signage systems. Photopolymers offer the fastest and the most cost-effective production techniques for the creation of high-quality ADA-compliant interior signage systems.

For a quarter of a century, photopolymer signs have been the dominant choice of interior designers for ADA signage. Following the ADA legislation, photopolymer signage quickly emerged as a reliable technology to provide a standard process and uniform look that could meet the ADA specifications.

In absence of photopolymer ADA signage, designers in the 1990s would have been severely restricted in their choices for cool and innovative designs, and they would have had to settle with random or lackluster substitutes.

The growing consciousness among building owners, consumers, government agencies, and other stakeholders to reduce the environmental footprint of buildings has further boosted the market preference for photopolymer ADA signs because of their eco-friendly properties.

State-of-the-Art Equipment and Graphic Design Processes

Advanced equipment and innovative graphic design processes have made it possible to custom create special designs that a customer may have in mind for their ADA interior signage systems. One of the latest pieces of equipment being used by a few ADA-compliant interior signage manufacturers is the Direct-to-Substrate UV Inkjet Printer.

This equipment enables the manufacturer to create custom subsurface graphics, including an aesthetically appealing wood grain look.

ADA-compliant Braille signage designs are now more creative than ever before. With photopolymers, it is possible to use a variety of materials, colors, and shapes, while meeting the strict ADA requirements regarding layout, font size, and other elements.

In the last few years, companies are increasingly looking at interior signage systems as a branding opportunity. Photopolymer signs allow companies to maintain consistency with their corporate colors and looks.

Replaceable name inserts are another popular trend in the interior signage industry today, which allows a company to use the same sign with a new name when an old employee departs or gets transferred.

With the emergence of newer techniques and technology, the ADA-compliant interior signage systems of the future are bound to be more user-friendly and exciting.

Filed Under: ADA Signage

Recent Posts


"Erie Custom Signs rocks! The signs they made for me look absolutely fabulous! I’m so grateful for their patience and flexibility during the design phase, and the quick turnaround to get my order here in time for the final inspection. They have been great to work with, and I hope to do so again in the near future." Dawn Gilman, Crystal Lake Engraving
"Erie Custom Signs did an awesome job. Thanks to Mike and the team for such prompt service. They’re now my go-to for ADA signage." Greg Haskell, Hwy 35 Signs
"The Erie team is always expedient in their responses, and they continually meet our extremely tight deadlines. Their work is of the highest quality and their customer service is top notch! We really appreciate having a fabricator like Erie Custom signs. They are always up for a challenge and continually produce our unique sign designs." Beth Geddio
Erie Custom Signs is amazing! My subcontractor received the signs ahead of schedule, which will ensure that they are installed on time. Thank you again for your assistance in this quick turnaround. I will be using your company again in the future! Brian Whitecap, Tusick + Associates Architects, Inc.

Erie Custom Signs is a proud member of...