Custom Door Signs

The question of creativity has been asked a number of times since the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was introduced in the early 1990s, especially on the topic of custom office door signs and how creative you can be with your design. It seems to be a pressing concern for those who want to push a particular brand or a unique corporate or business sensibility in signage creation.

The answer is yes, it is possible to be creative, as long as you follow the ADA guidelines for clarity and accessibility for persons with disabilities. And what are these guidelines? Since the signs placed on office doors are considered to be permanent signs, you will need to abide by these ADA rules even as you show creative flair in your signage design:

  • The letters or characters used in the signage you create must have tactile as well as visual elements. The purpose is for visually impaired people to be able to read these door signs with the use of their sense of touch.


In the ADA rules, these tactile elements need to follow these guidelines as well:

  • Raised letters with minimum height of 5/8 inches to a maximum of 2 inches
  • Grade 2 Braille, a tactile writing system that allows for contractions and abbreviations, unlike the letter-by-letter system in Grade 1 Braille.


  • The particular type of font that you use should be legible and straightforward for tactile readers and the visually impaired.

And this is what the Act says about that:

  • Sans serif typography with no fancy styles, all uppercase letters, no scripts, and no italics. Sans serif simply means that the font you choose for your sign doesn’t have that characteristic “serifs” or stylized tails at the edges of the letters.
  • The sans serif family includes Futura, Tahoma, Franklin Gothic, and Helvetica. There are many more to choose from.


  • Pay close attention to visual elements that affect the clarity of the message
    • Contrast of light to dark for text and background. The contrast should be set at 70%
    • Thickness of line stroke for the letters in your door sign.
    • Use of materials. The type of materials you use for your sign plate and your characters or letters should be non reflective and non-glaring.

Given all these rules to follow, how creative can your custom door signs be indeed? The good news is that creativity is not, and should not, be hampered by such constraints. In fact, these rules are here to help you make more effective signage even as you accept the creative challenges that come with creating unique, custom-made, compliant signs.

To create unique, and ADA compliant door signs for your office, look to the various design elements still available to you:

  • Play with your choice of fonts, as long as it is within the boundaries of clarity. Even with the font restrictions mentioned above, there are a number of viable fonts that are available for you to use. You only need one.
  • Use any color you want for your signage, as long as you abide by the ADA rules of contrast. The bottom line is that your text must be visible and legible to persons with disabilities.
  • You can add your logo and/or any creative image, as long as the relevant text is ADA compliant. Plenty of possibilities here.

Signs are meant to communicate as well as add an aesthetic element to your office. So, how creative can your custom office door signs be? As creative as you want it to be (within ADA guidelines, of course)! These rules and elements to consider will help you achieve that perfect balance between ADA compliance and aesthetically pleasing and creative customzed office door signs.

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