A whole article about the history of the do not disturb sign, by David A. Keeps in the June 2005 issue of Travel & Leisure:
With the rise of boutique hotels in the nineties, even the most inconsequential items—notepads, laundry bags—bore the imprint of a brand-savvy graphic design team, and the Do Not Disturb sign went from dull to desirable again. It was the first W, in New York, that revived my itchy fingers. The property’s die-cut door hanger read Go Away, Please, communicating in no uncertain terms the core values of what hotels provide: privacy and anonymity for an increasingly stressed-out populace. “Everybody is looking for a way to say they’re not available,” says Ross Klein, senior vice president and chief marketing officer of W Hotels Worldwide.
Though it was recently retired, the Go Away sign lives on; Klein estimates that more than 10,000 of them checked out along with the luggage. W’s next model—When? Not Quite—debuts this summer. Klein ordered three times more than he needed, in anticipation of souvenir hunters. “We don’t consider it theft,” he says. “We believe the signs are being adopted into loving homes.”
As a foster parent for hotel paraphernalia, I welcome the return of this cultural artifact—whether it’s the embroidered pillows that hang from the knobs at Maryland’s Inn at Perry Cabin or the clever magnetic Do Not Disturb disc that sticks to the metal door at the Maritime in New York (yes, it’s on my refrigerator now). Others are as in-your-face as a subway ride: Manhattan’s Le Parker Meridien borrowed the quintessential New York phrase Fuhgettaboudit. Kimpton Hotels has developed unique messages for each of its properties, from the jazz-centric Allegro in Chicago (Composing a Classic) to Washington, D.C.’s Pop artstyled Helix (Too Fabulous to Be Disturbed).
The trendy Do Not Disturb sign can have its drawbacks, however, at least according to Jason Pomeranc, co-owner of Thompson Hotels, which encompasses New York’s 60 Thompson, the Hollywood Roosevelt, and the Sagamore in Miami Beach. The cardboard sign he created—which simply says Do Not Disturb—delighted two of his guests so much that they eschewed privacy, putting it in their suitcase instead of on their door. “I walked into a room I thought was empty, only to find the couple still in bed,” Pomeranc recalls.