As the son of a hotel manager, Edoardo Flores spent his childhood around objects many of us associate solely with the niceties of vacation. His interest in collecting “Do Not Disturb” signs didn’t come until later, when he grabbed some unique ones as business trip souvenirs. Around 1995 he began collecting in earnest, and he now owns close to 9,000 signs from 190 countries.
In a history of the collection that Flores provided to Hyperallergic, he claims that little is known about the development of the “Do Not Disturb” (DND) sign, now such a common, expected component of hotel stays. Flores speculates that the DND sign was the wise invention of one hotel manager, and that other places later emulated the practice.
Some of the signs in Flores’s collection approximate the typeface and design of what one imagines the average DND sign to be. But this assembly also demonstrates the human interest in aesthetics beyond functionality. Some of the highlights: a sign from Hungary that approximates a Rorschach inkblot — are those lips and a finger or something more psychologically revealing? There’s the sign from Lufthansa that looks like the original “world’s saddest owl.” And many signs that lasciviously suggest, usually with the image of a woman pressing a finger to her lips, the reason these guests should not be bothered. One from the Helix Hotel in Washington, DC, combines an image of a red-lipped woman with the phrase “I just want to be alone” — a kind of anti-Lichtensteinian play on Pop art imagery.
The vast range of shapes, colors, and themes in Flores’s collection seems a plea for more unique design of all mass-produced objects, if not for functionality than simply for the sake of the optical, intellectual, and emotional stimulation that comes from visual diversity.
Goes perfectly with the classic Tig Notaro bit:
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