ASU Sign Shop’s sustainable signage

The ASU Sign Shop (Environmental Graphic Design Group) has been designing and maintaining sustainable signage on the ASU campus for over twenty years. The vast majority of the signage on all campuses has either been recycled from older sign parts, or will be refurbished to become another sign in the future as they are maintained. The standard ASU office sign is already made from some sustainable materials such as the Medium-density fiberboard (MDF) backer board, which is comprised of 100% reclaimed wood fibers from mills in California and uses a non-formaldehyde binder. The information portion of the sign consists of the plastic ADA compliant tactile/Braille room number.

For the GIOS building we eliminated all of the adhesives and acrylic from each sign, with the exception of the adhesive-backed tactile/Braille portion of the sign and the vinyl inserts. This new more sustainable sign consists of the same MDF backer board. The sign is easily maintained by pulling the sheet of steel out of the sign and running it through a sander to remove any scratches or vandalism.

Although the Sign Shop doesn’t have an exact number, the estimate is there are likely over 20,000 J-types spread across all of the ASU campuses. Hypothetically, each one of these J-types could be modified to the new sustainable version should the need arise. As spaces are remodeled, the signs often need to be upgraded. Most of the aluminum on the office signs before 2000 was painted, and now all of the aluminum is left raw and is brushed for aesthetics. Instead of recycling the aluminum and buying new aluminum sign parts, the paint is removed with a soy-based non-toxic paint stripper, and then the often scratched plastic is replaced with 400 series stainless steel.

In addition to the redesigned J-type sign, the sign shop sent less than 10% of the manufacturing waste products to the landfill. All of the scrap plastic from the tactile/Braille manufacturing process is recycled, as well as the plastic sheeting the vinyl comes on. Some of the scrap plastic was also utilized to make the GIOS building directories and stairwell fire code signage.

Ryan McFadden
Environmental Graphic Designer