Door Signs

The only thing that a writer’s room needs, according to Stephen King (2000), is “a door which you are willing to shut”.
Silvia, P. J. (2007). How to Write a Lot. Washington D.C.: APA.

When it comes to keeping a door shut, or more positively, to indicate whether you are available or not, there is nothing as practical as a sign on the door. And there are a lot of ways to signal whether you are currently available, or not, or even whether you are in your office or not. From Post-Its to fixed installations, from geeky LED displays to old fashioned paper.

Personally, I can highly recommend a paper solution I made for my office door when I had a lot of interaction with study participants. I still use it because it’s extremely practical.

It looks like this:


okay, as close up:


metal_thingy.jpgIt’s easy to turn to change the out-of-office message and easy to construct as well. It uses two pieces of paper, connected with … hells, I don’t even know the word for it in German, one of these metal thingies that are used to close some envelopes. That thing on the right. [Update: it’s called “brass fastener”, “brad”, or “split pin” in English, or “Musterklammer” or “Musterbeutelklammer”, also “Flachkopfklammer”, “Rundkopfklammer”, “Spreizklammer”, “Splitpenne”, “Beutelklammer” or rarer “Versandtaschenklammer” in German, ah, smart people who love knowledge and are willing to share it are cool 🙂] I’ve put some tape on the back to keep the metal thing in place and avoid it scratching the door.

The two pieces are printed on paper (here with a quick and dirty translation into English).

The message disc:

Message Disc.

and the cover disc:

Cover disc. I thought about writing “In case of doubt, run in circles, scream and shout.”, but I guess that could be misinterpreted. 😉

On the cover disc, the white rectangle is cut out to show the message, while I’ve put my photo where the gray rectangle is. This cover disc is also used to tape the sign to the door. Scotch tape works well, just make sure you do not fixate the inner disc. And you should make sure that it does not damage or deface the door material in the long run. Look at the close up photo for details. BTW, the cover disc is smaller than the message disc. This leaves the border of the message disc to turn. The writing on the edge of the message disc helps you to find the message you need.

If you want to use a similar construction, try using this InDesign template. Think about what your default message is and put the most frequently used messages next to it. Personally, it made sense to put “not here yet or anymore” next to “back in five minutes”, given that these are the two most frequently used messages for me.

Works very well for well over a year now. Much better than post-its.