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Wins for More Effective Wayfinding Signs Published in Latest MUTCD Manual

After nearly three years of work, the industry’s contributions have been incorporated into the latest version of the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD). While the MUTCD does not have a broad impact on the on-premise sign industry, the designers and fabricators who work on wayfinding signs are particularly impacted.

ISA’s efforts to make sure the industry’s concerns are heard and addressed brought together a collation of nine organizations and experts to speak with one voice. The coalition, which also included SEGD members and other key stakeholders in our industry, was able to positively influence the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA).

The latest version of the MUTCD was released publicly at the end of December 2023. With 1,161 pages in the document, here is a quick highlight of three wins for more effective wayfinding signage:

Upgrading Nonconforming Signs: Concerning language in the 2021 draft version suggested that nonconforming existing signs, which were owned and maintained by state Departments of Transportation, needed to be upgraded before installing a new community wayfinding system. The final language excluded this guidance.

Using Letter Styles Other Than Standard Alphabets: Using the Standard Alphabets fonts results in impractically large sign panels. The coalition asked for wording that allows designers to use an alternative, and the final language was rewritten to allow designers to use highly effective fonts other than the Standard Alphabets.

Parking Directional Signs: Designers in our industry often are directed to use specific signs as parking directionals (white P in blue circle, white P in green circle, green P in white rectangle). While the coalition requested that designers be allowed to use parking sign colors that coordinate with the overall graphics of a community wayfinding system, the final language did remove a requirement that parking area signage only should be only green on a retroreflective white background.

While ISA applauds these important wins for more effective wayfinding designs, the coalition was not able to influence the FHWA on all points. One recommendation made by the coalition was not approved for the final manual:

Rectangular Sign Shape: In the 2009 edition of the MUTCD—the last approved version—wayfinding signs were required to be rectangular. This was a guidance, which is a strong recommendation. The updated version changes the guidance to a “standard,” which makes it a requirement. The coalition urged that it remain a guidance, but the requirement was included in the final version. We all know that the shape of a sign in itself can convey as much as the words on it, so losing that point was difficult to take.

Enacting any sort of change in federal regulations is monumental, and the coalition is pleased that we were able to make an impact in three key areas. This undertaking was a heavy lift for the organizations and volunteers who worked to craft detailed arguments.

The FHWA will likely update the MUTCD again in four years, and ISA will be there again to make sure that our industry’s concerns are heard and addressed.

If you have any questions or comments, please contact Kenny Peskin at