Beautiful Signs for a Better Planet

INTERIOR CUSTOM ADA SIGNS DESIGN GUIDE

CUSTOM ADA SIGNS DESIGN GUIDE

Custom sign designers balance interior design, branding, durability, cost, project specific goals and more. This interior ADA signs design guide walks specifiers, designers, and buyers through key decision points, ensuring your Green Dot Sign® project is a success.

Use the Contact Us form at the bottom of this page to schedule an ADA sign consultation or request a quote or samples.

CUSTOM ADA SIGNS DESIGN CONSIDERATIONS 

Green Dot Sign wooden wayfinding and ADA signs are beautiful, durable, sustainable and offer many design options.  The following steps help maximize your design efforts.

  1. Selecting wood species
  2. Deciding if and what flat printed, engraved or decorative elements should be included
  3. Raised sign content
  4. Size, shape and sign schedule impact
  5. Sign edge

ADA SIGN REQUIREMENT COMPLIANCE

Signs within the scope of the ADA must meet federal signage requirements, and in some cases jurisdictional requirements as well. Keep your signs from joining the over 50% of non-compliant AECO designed projects by reviewing ADA Sign Requirement FAQs.

Rest assured, we are ADA signage requirements experts and review sign proofs submitted for quote for ADA sign compliance.

1st SIGN DESIGN CONSIDERATION – WOOD SPECIES

Your preferred design may be “wood forward”, or perhaps the wood element is subtle.  Brand guidelines may also direct wood species for your custom ADA signs.  From a manufacturing perspective, practically any species can be used, but not all species work well for given design goals.  For example, walnut works well for wood forward designs, but other woods perform better if your design has a solid color face or light color stain.

Keep your end design goal in mind as you read through the species below, and chances are you’ll know which wood species works best for your project.

Selecting sign base wood species is a primary project driver; it impacts design options, tactile character color contrast, sealing options, cost, and lead time.

The three wood species related criteria are:
1.1 Wood species
1.2 Wood sealer or finish, and
1.3 Wood grain orientation

1. 1 CUSTOM ADA SIGNS WOOD SPECIES & BUDGET 


Green Dot Sign® offers several custom ADA and wayfinding sign product lines made from standard wood species to fit your project budget.  Based on sign materials, order quantity, size and sign design complexity, prices range from $25 to $500 each, with $60 to $100 being typical.

Economy signs – For the most economical wooden ADA signs, select Baltic birch plywood.

Standard signs – Custom ADA signs made from aspen, cherry and maple fall within the standard price tier.

Premium signs – While other hard woods vary in cost, Green Dot signs made from ash, white oak, and walnut woods are priced higher than economy and standard signage lines. Premium signs often contain a stunning mix of wood species and other inlaid materials such as slate, metals or decorative commercial laminates.

Sustainable Signs – For the most sustainable custom ADA signs available, select our aspen with bio-based oil sealer.  It is FSC 100%, Declared – Red List Approved product line.  All Green Dot ADA signs use the same Declared materials for tactile characters, however, only the bio-based sealer is Declared.

The simple choice of wood, instead of fossil fuel derived plastics, as your sign base makes a real environmental difference no matter what.  To maximize your impact, we recommend choosing the finishes below, which have been selected to minimize environmental impact and worker VOC exposure.  However, the full range of wood stains and finishes is available.  So if you’re project calls for dark black stained wood, with a matte finish, it’s not a problem and much better than plastic products.

If your project is best completed with a species not listed here, don’t hesitate to use it.  Your custom ADA signs can be made from practically any species; just decide what is best for your sign design and reach out to us for feedback on potential price or lead time impacts.

A variety of FSC CoC certified woods are in stock at all times.  

ASH WOOD SIGNS

Ash has a light, near white, color with pronounced medium brown grain.  Appropriate with a wide range of colors, but large color swatches show above average grain shit.  Markings from the emerald ash borer should either be specifically allowed, or disallowed at time of specification.

Ash wood is a moderate to low cost material with excellent strength and dimensional stability. Ash custom wood signs are only available with a aqueous clear coat finish.  Excellent for edge routing, and highly expressed edge cornering.  Available in .5 or 0.7 inch and custom thicknesses.

Sealer recommendation – Aqueous Clear Coat Matte Finish

Stain options – Suitable for the full range of light to dark stains, translucent to opaque

Drawing preparation – Download an image of ash wood

 


These signs use white ash with 90% K and standard teal for a clean, energetic and centered design concept.   Note the room sign has identical visual and tactile characters, so the tactile characters are allowed, and produced, at 0.5″ height.  

ASPEN WOOD SIGNS

Aspen has a bright white color with light grain.  It is ideal for projects using multiple or bright colors, as well as natural wood-based designs.  Excellent for painting due to extremely smooth grain. 

This low-cost solid wood takes all standard Green Dot Sign® wood finishes.  Excellent for edge routing and inlay materials. Light weight wood, available in 0.5″ and 0.7″ thickness.  

Sealer recommendation – Standard bio-based oil, or blended bio-based oil

Stain options – Suitable for the full range of light to dark stains, translucent to opaque

Drawing preparation – Download a solid aspen image

 


Image shown is a solid aspen wood ADA sign with standard bio based oil finish, clear braille and forest green tactile numbers with flat printed black numbering.  Simple, modern designs like this work well with aspens’ low visual impact wood grain. This sign was part of a package for a University in North Carolina.

BALTIC BIRCH PLYWOOD SIGNS

Baltic birch plywood has a bright white color with light grain.  Ideal for designs using multiple or bright colors, as well as natural wood based designs. Excellent for painting due to smooth grain. 

Our lowest cost standard material.  Takes all standard Green Dot Sign® wood finishes.  Edges show ply layers unless painted.  Complex edge routing not recommended.  Lightweight with excellent strength.   Available in .25, .5 and .75 inch thicknesses.

Sealer recommendation –  Blended bio-based oil or teak oil

Stain options – Suitable for the full range of light to dark stains, translucent to opaque

Drawing preparation – Download a baltic birch plywood image

 


This ADA compliant room sign features .25 inch baltic birch plywood with full bleed digital print in light blue and black tactile lettering and braille.  Note the botanical element on the left has no ink, and simply reveals natural wood grain. 

CHERRY WOOD SIGNS

Cherry is a light to medium brown wood with beautiful grain.  Best for designs with either very dark or very light colors. Excellent for flat printed applications.

Low to moderate cost material. Great machinability, and dimensional stability.  Excellent for edge routing, inlay materials and highly expressed edge cornering.  Great choice for clear solid panel changeable sign face material.  Available in .25, .5 or 0.7 inch and custom thicknesses.

Sealer recommendation – Standard bio-based oil, blended bio-based oil or teak oil

Stain options – Suitable only for dark stains, translucent to opaque

Drawing preparation – Download an image of cherry wood

 


The sign to the right features 90% K grey lettering and clear braille on cherry wood sealed with Blended GDS Bio Based Oil.  The negative space in the left quadrant creates simple elegance, letting nature do the talking. 

MAPLE WOOD SIGNS

Maple is a light color with beautiful grain, and it is used widely in molding, handrails and other interior building features.  Best for designs with limited colors, that use wood character as a central design element since the wood grain has a moderate to high impact on flat print color.

Moderate cost material. Excellent strength, machinability, dimensional stability and general physical characteristics.  Takes all standard Green Dot Sign® wood finishes. Excellent for edge routing, inlays and highly expressed edge cornering.  Available in 0.25, 0.5 or  0.7 inch and custom thicknesses.

Sealer recommendation – Standard bio-based oil or blended bio-based oil

Stain options – Suitable for the full range of light to dark stains, translucent to opaque

Drawing preparation – Download an image of hard maple

Maple Wood Sign


This custom room sign features 1.125 inch thick hard maple wood with a compound angle cut to reveal wood from different angles.  The “N” indicates a north wing and includes a color highlight corresponding to colors used throughout the north wing to assist with wayfinding.  For best results, custom ADA signs should be considered in collaboration with wayfinding signage. 

WALNUT WOOD SIGNS

Walnut has a dark color and beautiful grain.  Best for designs with limited and bright colors, using wood character as a central design element.  Above average color variance to be expected, even within the same piece of wood.

It is a high cost material, with excellent strength, dimensional stability and general physical characteristics.  Walnut takes all standard Green Dot Sign® wood finishes. Excellent for edge routing, inlays and highly expressed angle cuts.  Available in 0.25″, 0.5″, 0.7” and custom thicknesses.

Sealer recommendation – Standard bio-based oil, blended bio-based oil, teak oil, or aqueous clear coat matte finish

Stain options – Suitable only dark stains, translucent to opaque

Drawing preparation – Download an image of walnut wood

 


These 0.7 inch thick walnut signs include a 0.5 inch wide grey slate inlay strip, brushed brass numbering and clear braille.  Note the sharp relief on the left exposes different aspects of wood grain and eases the transition between wall and sign.  These condo unit signs were made for a building in Nashville, TN.

WHITE OAK WOOD SIGNS

White oak has a light brown to olive color with beautiful grain.  Best for designs with either very dark or very light colors using wood character as a central design element.  Oak is a very dense wood, and large signs should receive extra installation consideration. Excellent color consistency across wood lots.

High-cost material. Excellent strength, machinability, dimensional stability and general physical characteristics. Only available with aqueous clear coat finish.  Excellent for edge routing, and highly expressed edge cornering.  Available in 0.25, 0.5 or 0.7 inch and custom thicknesses.

Sealer recommendation – Aqueous clear coat matte finish

Stain options – Suitable  only for dark stains, translucent to opaque

Drawing preparation – Download an image of white oak wood

 


This sign uses a 0.5 inch thick wood base with eased edges and light blue tactile characters. The simple wood centered design compliments other white oak wood interior design elements.  

1.2 WOOD FINISH OR SEALER 


Sealing protects and strengthens your custom wood signs.  Rather than pigmented stains which alter wood color, we recommend selecting a wood species whose natural color fits your building or brand and using a standard “clear” finish.  Inherent characteristics of wood shine through with clear finishes and these finishes are generally more sustainable, cost effective and repeatable for future projects and MRO signage.  

Not all finishes work with all woods or all assembly sign methods.  For repeat purchases we encourage clients to define their desired finish type.  If you are not sure which sealer to use, it is okay to state “manufacturers recommended sealer” in your specifications. Read below to learn about wood sealer and finish options.

Custom ADA Door Sign Pier RoomOur standard wood finish, combines pure tung oil, linseed oil and beeswax for a  100% bio-based oil.  This dense wood oil provides excellent protection for high traffic custom ADA and wayfinding signs and it works well with all our signage products and printing styles.  This oil adds two weeks to production time due to curing requirements.

This oil is, heavy metal and VOC free per manufacturer label. Its components are disclosed in our Red List Approved Declare label, making our most transparent and sustainable option.

For faster curing, we blend the bio-based oil with traditional furniture finishes. This cost-effective blended wood oil is nearly identical in appearance to our standard bio-based oil finish.

An aqueous clear coat matte finish must be used on certain woods, including ash.  This finish is also applied over many opaque or translucent stains to increase protection.

Many sign designers prefer custom finishes, either to match project elements or for tight pallet control.  Please reach out with your end goal, and we can let you know the steps and materials that will your goal.

Exterior finish for signageOur standard exterior wood stain is a traditional blend that includes tung oil and iron particles. Selective use of exterior finishes can provide custom wooden ADA signs a longer useful life.

The only exterior ADA signs we recommend are our solid machined metal exterior signs.  Standard outdoor restroom signs and custom metal signs come with a lifetime warranty.

 


Pictured is our standard exterior finish on laser engraved baltic birch.

1.3 WOOD GRAIN ORIENTATION

Many clients choose to have natural wood grain be a prominent part of their custom ADA sign design.  The wood sign base can serve as a background for text or wood grain can appear as negative space in text or graphics.

Grain of your wood sign base may be specified as horizontal or vertical.  If a wood grain orientation is not noted, Green Dot Sign® will select the most economical orientation for each sign size.  For example, grain on a 3 inch tall by 8 inch wide sign would run horizontal, while grain for a 10 inch tall by 7 inch wide sign in the same project would run vertical.

Size is the last consideration when deciding if and how to specify grain orientation.  Signs with any dimension over 10″ are more cost effective if the longest dimension, either width or height, is the grain direction.  

 


The grain of this walnut room sign is highlighted by a relief cut on the lower left sign corner.

MORE CUSTOM WOOD SIGN IDEAS & BENEFITS

Custom wood ADA signs provide design, cost and environmental advantages. Learn about the reasons to choose natural materials and get design inspiration from unique client projects.

Wood Sign Ideas & Benefits

2nd SIGN DESIGN CONSIDERATION – FLAT PRINTING AND ENGRAVING

Flat printing adds CMYK + W printed elements to your interior ADA signs’ wooden face.  Design possibilities are unlimited, from single colors on a sign face to subtle or complex design elements.

Aspen and Baltic birch work best for complicated printed elements.  These woods’ color is close to white, so they allow a broad range of printed colors.  Aspen and birch also have a smooth grain structure, with little to no texture.

All flat and raised 3D printed content is non-toxic, and components are disclosed in our Red List Approved Declare label.  

There are three flat printing considerations:
1. Standard and custom colors
2. Grey, and
3. Opaque or translucent

Standard Colors to use for on sign design
Green Dot Sign® custom color matches or we offer fourteen standard colors.

Standard colors are red, pink, orange, purple, grey, dark grey, white, kelly green, forest green, brown, blue, light blue, teal and black. Each color has been formulated for vibrancy using our “ink” set when printing on wood.

Ideally files are submitted as live, at size, vectored .ai or .pdf files with fonts outlined, and colors called out as Green Dot Sign® standards, PMS and % K outputs.   

Shades of grey play a prominent role in graphic and interior design. However, cool and warm greys can easily verge into purple, yellow, blue and even brown when printed on wood.

For translucent greys we recommend using % K formulations.  This means rather than using cyan, magenta or yellow, only black pigment is applied, so a true grey comes through.

Note that opaque printing mimics printing to a white background, and is effective for cool or warm grey Pantone colors.

 


This image shows grey printed in steps of 10% K, on Baltic birch plywood with blended bio based oil sealer.  % K is a widely and easily applied method for printing.

Flat printing on custom ADA and wayfinding signs can be opaque or translucent.  

Opaque means a heavy layer of white ink is applied prior to printing colors. Translucent uses the natural wood color as the background.  For light colors, translucent lets grain, mineral streaks and natural wood character come through. 

The ink formulations we use are based on printing to white materials.  Since wood has its own colors, a Pantone matched color on white comes out differently on wood.  Additionally, the same color printed on different woods can look dramatically different.

If your design requires a Pantone match, simply note the color is opaque and colors will match within typical digital printing accuracy ranges.

 


This close-up image shows raised, opaque and translucent colors from left to right.  The same CMYK color is applied to all three.  Note that lighter colors convey more wood texture, grain and color than darker colors. 

3rd SIGN DESIGN CONSIDERATION – RAISED PRINTING

The ADA requires tactile characters and braille be used on signs identifying every permanent room or space. For tactile 3D printed content specify any Green Dot Sign® standard, PMS or % K color. Raised 3D printed content works well on most wood types and is ADA compliant.  All raised and flat printed are non-toxic, and components are disclosed in our Red List Approved Declare label.  

Via our patent pending manufacturing process 3D printed material directly bonds to the wood sign base.  A special layer highly receptive to 3D printed “inks” bonds with the topmost wood fibers of the sign blank.  The raised characters are made directly on this topmost wood fiber matrix. Green Dot signs don’t rely on adhesive to hold plastic and wood together, so braille and other tactile content are vandal resistant than traditional plastic ADA signs and last longer.

There are three raised printing considerations:
1. Standard and custom colors
2. Braille color, and
3. ADA compliance

The ADA does not include visual braille signage requirements.  This means that sign braille can be clear, opaque or clear on a color.

 

 


A translucent layer of ink on top of clear braille can create added visual interest.  

 

 

Standard Colors to use for on sign designGreen Dot Sign® custom color matches or we offer fourteen standard colors.

Standard colors are red, pink, orange, purple, grey, dark grey, white, kelly green, forest green, brown, blue, light blue, teal and black. Each color has been formulated for vibrancy using our “ink” set when printing on wood.

Ideally files are submitted as live, at size, vectored .ai or .pdf files with fonts outlined, and colors called out as Green Dot Sign® standards, PMS and % K outputs.   

ADA Signage Requirements are detailed in our free to download Complete ADA Sign Requirements Guide. Here are key points to remember when designing your custom ADA signs.

Font selection – No decorative, serif, italicized or heavy stroke fonts allowed; A common ADA sign design mistake is to select non-compliant fonts, particularly fonts that are bold or semi-bold

Font size – 5/8 inch to 2 inches

Braille size – Braille should be about 3/8 inch in height; A common mistake is noting braille cells as 1/4 inch in height

Braille position – Braille must be directly below corresponding tactile characters

Braille and text position – Inset braille and letters ⅜ inch or more from sign edge

High contrast – ADA required sign content must have a “high contrast” with sign background

4th SIGN DESIGN CONSIDERATION – SIGN SIZE & SHAPE

Interior ADA signs are made in a variety of shape and sizes.  Within a particular signage system, standardizing sign shape and size as much as possible helps to streamline design and manufacturing, and provides visual cues to stakeholders using the system navigate.  The minimum size of a wooden ADA sign is 2 by 3 inches.  More commonly, custom ADA signs 4″ by 7″ accommodate up to two rows of text for a room name and/or number.
Signs with the International Symbol of Accessibility or other pictograms are typically 6″ by 8″ to 7″ by 9″ or more.   6″ x 8″allows one compliant text row.  A 9″ height accommodates two compliant text rows.

Rectangles and squares are the most common and economical sign shapes.  Many designers incorporate curves, rounded corners and shapes into their custom ADA signs’ design. Custom shapes can be used to expose the wood grain in a dynamic way.  Manufacturing cost shape impact ranges from minimal (rounded corners) to moderate (complex shapes).

When designing custom signs with unique shapes, consider the following best practices.

  • Select corner radii from standard options to reduce custom ADA sign cost, for example, r 0.25 inch instead of r 0.287 inch
  • Inside radii should be no smaller then 1/4 inch
  • For irregular shapes provide clean, at-size line art for each shape
  • If an irregular shape has brand or building significance, a cost-effective alternative to making signs in the unique shape is to print or laser engrave the shape on a square or rectangular sign base

5th SIGN DESIGN CONSIDERATION – SIGN EDGE

 

Your custom ADA signs edge can be customized into a variety of shapes, or kept plain. Options range from refined edges similar to molding, to compound angle cuts on plywood evoking a grounded, industrial feeling. Most modern custom ADA signs’ design feature eased edges, and many use eased edges in combination with other edge profiles.  For example, a deep angle cut on one sign edge and eased edges on the remaining sides.  

Green Dot Sign’s standard interior ADA sign edge options are a 45 degree chamfer or erased edge, read below to learn more about these options.

The 45 degree edge chamfer is a timeless presentation, both modern and classic. It is an especially good option to consider if your design has no content on the face besides tactile characters.

For 0.7 inch thick solid wood sign bases the 45 degree chamfer is typically inset 0.16 inch. As signs increase in size, deeper insets often look better.

 


This close-up image of a 45 degree chamfer illustrates how it provides a finished look to the sign edge.

 

“Eased edges” refers to lightly sanding the corners of a sign edge.  There is practically no visual impact, however, it makes the signs easier to handle and creates a stronger surface.

In general, if there is more content on a sign face, eased edges, rather than chamfered, are appropriate.  Also, if your sign design includes full bleed imagery, eased edges are usually the best option.

 

Consider the following language for your custom signage edge specifications.

For eased edges – Uniformly ease all edges and corners

For angle chamfers –  Include angle and depth of cut into face on the edge of the sign, not the face;  See diagram to the right and click here to download a live version for your drawings

For table, molding, ogee and similar decorative edges –  Include the router bit manufacturer code;  For example “Rockler OE869 Decorative Ogee Router Bit“; Do not include depth for decorative edge profiles

Printing – Note flat printing may abut, but not extend into, edge profiles

YOUR DRAWINGS & SPECIFICATIONS

As you work through the custom ADA sign design process, know that Green Dot Sign has free to download sign specification documents. Here are key components of specifying custom wood ADA signs.

 

  • Indicate desired wood species
  • Remove brand names from material requirements, such as Rowmark or Duets®
  • Indicate that tactile characters and braille may be thermoset acrylic or equivalent
  • Indicate lettering and braille may be direct bond 3D printed, adhesive not required
  • Indicate knots, mineral streaks and other wood features may not interfere with ADA sign compliance requirements
  • Indicate patches or voids allowed on visible surfaces or edges of plywood

Specification Downloads

YOU DESIGN THE BEST INTERIOR ADA SIGNS

The most beautiful and refined interior custom ADA sign designs come from creatives like you!  

 

Reach out to schedule a no obligation sign consultation or a fast quote and free samples.