Sign Types

Signs are expanding communication mediums that respond to our mobile lifestyles. Signature buildings such as the widely recognized McDonald’s restaurant building designs are signs. A face-lift to a building such as the Old western village false storefront is also considered a sign. Thoughtful use of the visibility features of your business site expands your ability to communicate with passersby. Regardless of the type used, your signage must be appealing to your customers and the message must be readable.

When faced with the task of reviewing the many choices of signs available, it helps to approach it by first looking at the three primary locations in which you will typically use on-premise signs:

  • Building mounted signs
  • Freestanding signs
  • Interior signs

Many of the sign types fall into more than one of the above location-based categories. For example, channel letters can be either building-mounted, freestanding, or even an interior sign. As you review this section, keep in mind that there are dozens of possible sign options and configurations, each as unique as a business’ needs. We present in this section, as well as in our “Sign Gallery,” the most commonly used types of signs.

Here are some generalized points, as an introduction to sign types:

  • Building mounted
    On-premise signs may be attached to the roof, parapet, marquee, or building fascia. These signs may be either parallel or perpendicular to the building surface.
  • Freestanding
    On-premise signs are generally supported by a structure attached to or cast in a foundation. The structure and attachments to the foundation may be concealed with a decorative covering. Freestanding signs can be further enhanced by landscaping.
  • On-premise signs can be either internally or externally illuminated (click the link to learn additional important details about illumination). For retail businesses, on-premise signs should be illuminated to accomplish communication with potential customers during nighttime hours.
  • Sometimes a building itself functions as a sign. This occurs most often with franchise and chain retail operations, where standardized (or “signature”) buildings and colors, as well as traditional on-premise signage, announce the presence of the business.

Buildings also may be fitted or retrofitted with “trade dress” to design a theme. Retrofitting of a building facade is often described as a “face lift.” Both building and freestanding signs should be designed to echo the theme or trade dress.

  • Changeable copy boards or electronic message centers enhance a sign’s effectiveness by providing space to advertise time-dependent messages. Such sign or sign additions can be electronically controlled (the electronic message center), or changed manually (the changeable copy sign).
  • Interior on-premise signs are those that advertise the location of businesses located in a common building such as a mall, office building, entertainment complex, etc. They have two major purposes: (1) to influence buyer choices and encourage certain “point of purchase” transactions; and (2) to provide guidance in a safe and efficient manner, as required by local regulatory authorities (such as the Fire Marshall) and federal law, particularly the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). (Additional detail can be found at “Interior Signage – The Background & The Evolution of an Industry).”

Carefully reviewing the many types of signs and considering how well they will meet your location and business’ needs will enable you to select the kind of signs you need for your greatest business success. Contact us today and we will help you get started!

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