Unexpected Inspiration: NYC DOT Sign Shop


Well, my inspiration today isn’t an obvious link to interior design. But, it’s just so amazing an interesting that I’m compelled to share. I had the pleasure of touring the New York City Department of Transportation Sign Shop today and I am just smitten. Every single street sign in the five boroughs is manufactured in Queens in a small shop staffed by 22 people, who I consider craftspeople and artisans. They produce 10,000-15,000 signs per month (!!) and rightfully take much pride in their work to help keep our streets safe.

And to top it all off, they take time from their busy production schedule to educate New York City 5th graders about the art and science of sign production.

I found two things most inspirational. (1) The importance of universal symbols, legibility and communicating to a diverse and multilingual audience. This is truly a form of design for all. (2) Sustainability is always good business. The sign shop recycles all of the aluminum used–from scraps of cut aluminum to complete signs that are removed from the street. Signs are regularly re-screened with updated graphics.

Here are some inspirational photos from the day:

These are the screens for printing the various signs:

Amazing reflective yellow:

My favorite sign, share the road!

This well worn sign will probably get a second life as a different sign:

Regularly used signs are made in bulk and stored on shelves:

Thanks for your work, DOT Sign Shop! I’ll look at street signs with whole new respect.

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