SDA History

The Japan Sign Design Association (SDA) was established in 1965 as the successor to the Kansai Neon Designers’ Club organized in 1955. In 1965, the SDA Awards, one of our major activities, started. The first winner of the Gold Award, the top award, was NEC’s large flashing neon sign built in the Ginza. Since this dynamic era of large, flamboyant neon signs, sign designs have largely changed and entered an era of sign architecture and sign systems. The transition between these eras required superior designs to achieve harmony between signs and the environment, and the SDA Awards have reflected this change.

During the 1980’s, the idea of corporate identity (CI) was introduced in Japan. Accordingly, sign design systems became popular: Bridgestone, NTT and Teito Rapid Transit Authority (currently the Tokyo Metro) all applied sign design systems. It was around this time that people started talking about SDA incorporating instead of its then status as a private organization neither controlled nor protected by law. In 1993, the Japan Sign Design Association (SDA) became a corporation with a nation-wide network and has been focusing on the importance of signs and their social responsibilities ever since.

During the 1990’s, the level of design in the area of public signs started showing major improvement. Great results were shown in the sign systems for public institutions and transportation facilities. Also, improvement in the area of commercial sign designs was frequently achieved at this time. After the year 2000, various new design methods and production processes were introduced to obtain further improvement in communications.

Besides the SDA awards, the SDA has been engaged in many activities such as the development business and publication of journals and bulletins. It also holds symposiums on a nation-wide basis to achieve better communications among the members and general attendants. In order to actively exchange information with other design associations, the SDA participates in the “Japan Design Group Conference (D-8)” lead by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, and in the “KUKAN Design Organization”. Through active communications with other design groups, activities are implemented periodically to provide the public with better/easy-to-understand sign designs and to educate the public regarding the importance of sign designs. Moreover, we conduct various activities including overseas study tours to seek sign design improvement and to contribute to the development of our industry.

The domain of sign designs will expand simultaneously with development of new technologies and new materials. The SDA aims at further growth by proposing guidelines for how sign designs can contribute to society.