AESTHETICS: A term dealing with form, design, and/or quality of
construction of a particular sign, building, site or structure that
presents a judgmental statement concerning the level of beauty or
AFS: the American Foundry Society exists to provide and promote
knowledge and services that strengthen the metal casting industry for
the ultimate benefit of its customers and society.
ANIMATED SIGN: A sign depicting action, motion, light or color
changes through electrical or mechanical means. Although technologically
similar to flashing signs, the animated sign emphasizes graphics and
ANNUAL AVERAGE DAILY TRAFFIC (ANNUAL ADT): Measurement
representing the total number of vehicles passing a given location each
AWNING SIGN: A building mounted sign that provides additional functionality as shelter.
BACKLIGHTED LETTER: An illuminated reverse channel letter (open
or translucent back) so light from the letter is directed against the
surface behind the letter producing a halo lighting effect around the
letter. Also referred to as Silhouette lighted or halo lighted.
BALLAST: An electrical device required to operate fluorescent lamps.
BANNER: A sign composed of lightweight material. Promotional
banners include those used to announce open houses and grand openings,
make special announcements, or communicate events. Ornamental banners
use images or colors of a decorative nature.
BENCH SIGN: A sign located on the seat or back of a bench or
seat placed on or adjacent to a public right-of-way. A type of street
BRAND EQUITY (Branding): The intangible, but real, value of
words, graphics or symbols that are associated with the products or
services offered by a business. Developing branding of a site includes
the presentation of signage and architecture to create a unique
awareness and memory by the potential customer of the products or
services offered at that site. Brand equity for a particular business
is similar to the goodwill of an enterprise.
BUILDING CODE: State, provincial and/or local regulations
governing public health, welfare and safety of construction and
BUILDING FASCIA: That portion of any elevation of a building
extending vertically from the grade to the top parapet wall or eaves,
and horizontally across the entire width of the building elevation,
including slanted wall surfaces sometimes referred to as a mansard.
BUILDING MOUNTED SIGN: A sign that is applied or attached to a
CABINET SIGN: A sign structure consisting of the frame and
face(s), not including the internal components, embellishments or
CANOPY: See marquee.
CANOPY SIGN: 1) A building-mounted sign functioning as a marquee. 2) A sign mounted on a marquee or canopy.
CHANGEABLE COPY PANEL: A section of a sign that functions like a changeable copy sign.
CHANGEABLE COPY SIGN: A variable message sign composed of individual letters panel-mounted in or on a track system.
CHANNEL LETTER: Fabricated or formed three-dimensional letter that may accommodate a light source.
COATED TUBING: Clear glass tubing, coated on the interior
surface with phosphorus powder. Coated tubing produces a variety of
different light colors, dependent upon the specific mixture of
phosphorus powders utilized.
COLD CATHODE: 1.) Electric discharge lighting, which uses an
electrode with a large metal mass to emit electrons. Neon tubing is a
cold cathode type. 2.) Generic term employed to specify custom
interior lighting produced through the use of larger diameter cold
COLORED TUBING: Transparent glass tubing manufactured with
color pigments, typically color examples include ruby red, canary
yellow, green, and midnight blue.
COMMEMORATIVE PLAQUE: see 'MEMORIAL PLAQUE or SIGN'
CONFORMING SIGN: A sign that is legally installed in accordance with federal, state/province, and local laws and ordinances.
CONSPICUITY: The characteristics of the sign that enable an
observer to differentiate the sign from its surrounding environment.
CONTENT NEUTRAL: TIME, PLACE and MANNER REGULATIONS:
Consistently applicable non-discriminatory sign regulations that
specify, without reference to the content of the message, when, how
and where a sign can be displayed, with physical standards, such as
but not limited to height, size and location, that allow the sign to
CONTRAST: The difference or degree of difference between things
having similar or comparable natures, such as light and dark areas,
colors, or typefaces.
COPY: The words or message displayed on a sign.
COPY AREA: Areas that enclose the actual copy on a sign.
COST APPROACH (Valuation): An approach to estimating the value
of real property whereby the appraiser determines the production cost of
the property, minus any accrued depreciation. This approach does not
merely include the hard costs of construction, but includes all soft
costs such as interest, permits, and fees. In sign appraisal this
concept includes the cost of replacing the message delivered to
COST PER THOUSAND (CPM): Refers to the cost for an advertiser
to send a message to 1000 receivers. The measure is calculated by
dividing the amount of money spent for a given advertisement by the
number of people exposed to it. (Based on this measure, signs are
usually considered to be the least expensive form of advertising.)
COVERAGE: A marketing term that refers to the percentage of the
total market population reached by an advertising message displayed in a
given medium; measured at least once a month.
CUSTOMER ACQUISITION COSTS: Basic value calculation used to
measure the cost versus return from the presence of signage; the cost of
acquiring a customer.
CUSTOM SIGN: A sign designed, manufactured and installed to meet the requirements of a specific location.
DAILY EFFECTIVE CIRCULATION (DEC): The average number of daily
potential exposures to a display or group of signs determined by
counting only those vehicles traveling toward the face of the sign,
and then multiplying that number by the average number of people per
car during the hours the sign is visible. Pedestrian and mass transit
circulations are not included. This is the basic measure in
establishing cost per thousand exposures on signs. The basic traffic
numbers can usually be obtained from your state/province Department of
DECK CABINET: Similar in detail and use as a raceway except larger in cross section to provide a background area.
DIMENSIONAL LETTER: A specification description of a letter,
logo or symbol, either cut out, cast, molded or fabricated in material
such as metal or plastic to create a raised condition.
DIRECTIONAL SIGN: Signs designed to provide direction to pedestrian and vehicular traffic.
DIRECTORY SIGN: A sign that identifies the names and locations
of tenants in a multi-tenant building or in a development made up of a
group of buildings.
DOUBLE-FACED SIGN: A sign with two parallel opposing (back-to-back) faces.
ELECTRIC SIGN: Any sign containing or using electrical wiring.
ELECTRONIC MESSAGE CENTER: A variable message sign that
utilizes computer-generated messages or some other electronic means of
changing copy. These signs include displays using incandescent lamps,
LEDs, LCDs or a flipper matrix.
EXTERIOR ILLUMINATED SIGN: A sign that is illuminated by a
light source that is directed towards, and shines on the face of a sign.
Also called direct illumination.
FACE: The surface area on a sign where advertising copy is displayed.
FAIR MARKET APPROACH: One of three appraisal approaches. The
highest price at which a property could be sold given a reasonable
exposure period in the market. The price is arrived at by a willing
seller and willing buyer, neither being under duress to act.
FASCIA SIGN: A building mounted sign.
FLASHING SIGN: A sign with an intermittent or flashing light
source. Generally, the sign’s message is constantly repeated, and the
sign is most often used as a primary attention-getting device.
Government highway departments frequently use flashing signs to
improve highway safety.
FLAT CUTOUT LETTER: A dimensional letter cut from sheet or plate stock.
FLUORESCENT LAMP OR TUBE: Electric-discharge lighting utilizing glass tubing manufactured to standard lengths.
FONT: A set of letters, numerals, and shapes, which conform to a specific set of design criteria.
FOUNDRY: factory where metal castings are produced, a.k.a. metalworks.
FREESTANDING SIGN: A sign that is not attached to a building.
FREQUENCY: The average number of times an individual has the
opportunity to see an advertising message during a defined period of
time. Typically measured over a four-week period.
FRONT LIGHTED LETTER: An illuminated channel letter with translucent face.
FULL SERVICE SIGN COMPANIES: Sign companies that complete the
entire signage project, including surveying, designing, engineering,
permitting, manufacturing, installing, and maintaining signs.
GRAVE MARKER: see 'MEMORIAL PLAQUE or SIGN'
GROUND SIGN: A freestanding sign with no visible support structure.
H CHANNEL LETTER: A dimensional letter with baffles at the
center of the cross-sectional shape for support of neon tubing and
mounting of transformers.
HIGH-RISE SIGN: A tall freestanding sign.
INCANDESCENT BULB: A lamp that produces light through the
application of electrical energy to a wire filament, which glows as it
INTERIOR SIGNS: Signs that are located inside a building or other facility.
INTERNALLY ILLUMINATED SIGN: A sign that is illuminated by a light source that is contained inside the sign.
ISA: International Sign Association.
JUST COMPENSATION: The full monetary value to be paid for
property taken by the government in accordance with the Fifth Amendment
of the U.S. Constitution. Just compensation is generally determined by
obtaining an appraisal.
LEGIBILITY: The characteristics of letters, numbers, graphics,
or symbols that make it possible to differentiate one from the other.
LISTED SIGN: A sign labeled to indicate that the manufacturer
of the sign is identified in a list published by a National Recognized
Testing Laboratory as producing signs in conformance with the
applicable American National Standard.
LOGO: A design that represents goods, identity or service.
MALL SIGNAGE: A wide variety of typical on-premise sign types located within the interior of a multi-tenant building or mall.
MANUAL ON UNIFORM TRAFFIC CONTROL DEVICES (MUTCD): This manual
establishes minimum standards of placement that a sign must achieve to
accomplish readability and conspicuity. The manual covers a range of
traffic control devices; specifically signs, which it breaks into
three categories-guide signs, warning signs, and directional signs. It
is based on the principle that signage deficiencies cause traffic
MARQUEE: A permanent canopy often of metal and glass projecting over an entrance.
MARQUEE SIGN: 1) a sign mounted on a permanent canopy, 2) a
traditional industry term for the variable message section of a canopy
sign, 3) an integral sign and permanent canopy.
MENU BOARD: A variable message sign that allows a retailer to
list products and prices. For example, the bill of fare for a fast food
MEMORIAL PLAQUE or SIGN: a commemorative sign that is intended
to remind people of a person who has died or an event in which people
died, for example, a statue, grave marker, or special cast plaque. It is
also very common for memorial plaqes to be used in relation to loved
pets and animals.
MESSAGE AREA: The area within the sign panel describing the limits of the message.
MESSAGE CENTER: An electronically or mechanically variable
message sign enabling changes to be made from locations other than at
the sign. (See also variable message sign.)
MOBILE SIGN: A portable sign mounted on a trailer.
MONUMENT SIGN: A ground sign with low overall height. (See freestanding sign.)
NEC: National Electric Code
NEON SIGN: A sign manufactured utilizing neon tubing, which is visible to the viewer.
NEON TUBING: Electric discharge, cold cathode tubing
manufactured into shapes that form letters, parts of letters, skeleton
tubing, outline lighting, and other decorative elements or art forms,
in various colors and diameters and filled with inert gases.
NESA: National Electric Sign Association, the previous name of the International Sign Association (ISA).
OFF-PREMISE SIGN: Any sign that is not appurtenant to the use
of the property, a product sold, or the sale or lease of the property on
which it is displayed, and that does not identify the place of
business as purveyor of the merchandise, services, etc., advertised
upon the sign. Also known as Outdoor Advertising.
ON-PREMISE SIGN: A communication device whose message and
design relates to a business, an event, goods, profession or service
being conducted, sold or offered on the same property as there the
sign is erected. OPEN
CHANNEL LETTER: A dimensional letter that has no face and, if
illuminated with the light source visible. A clear face for physical
protection of internal components may be used.
PAINTED WALL SIGN: See building mounted sign.
PAN CHANNEL LETTER: A dimensional letter that is constructed
with side walls, back and a face making the letter a solid integral unit
with the side walls and back having a pan-shaped cross section.
PAN FACE: A plastic sign face molded into a three dimensional
shape. Also called molded face, molded and embossed face, molded and
PARAPET SIGN: A sign mounted on top of the parapet of a building. (See building mounted sign.)
PERMANENT SIGN: A sign attached to a building, structure, or
the ground in a manner that enables the sign to resist environmental
loads, such as wind, and precludes ready removal or movement of the
POINT-OF-PURCHASE SIGN: Signage that advertises a product at its point of sale, or "point of purchase" location.
POLE OR PYLON COVER: An enclosure for concealing and/or for decorating poles or other structural supports of a ground sign.
POLE SIGN: A freestanding sign with visible support structure.
POP (Point of Purchase): Signage that advertises a product at it’s point of purchase.
PORTABLE SIGN: A sign not permanently attached to the ground or
building, with a power-cord for connection to an electrical source, and
readily removable using ordinary hand tools.
POST AND PANEL SIGN: An unlighted sign fabricated by using one or more visible posts to support the sign body.
PROJECTING SIGN: A building mounted sign with the faces of the sign perpendicular to the building fascia.
PUSH-THROUGH: A letter or logo cut out of a backing material
that is as thick or thicker than the sign face material, and mounted on
the inside of the sign face so that the backing material’s thickness
extends flush with or through and beyond the front plane of the sign
PYLON SIGN: A freestanding sign with visible support structure or with the support structure enclosed with a pole cover.
RACEWAY: An electrical enclosure that may also serve as a mounting structure for the sign.
READABILITY: (Also conspicuity.) The quality that enables the
observer to correctly perceive the message. In transportation
engineering, this word is being replaced by conspicuity.
RECALL: In signage, this refers to the ability of a viewer to remember the message even when they are not viewing it.
RECOGNITION: Refers to the ability of a viewer to identify the message.
REGULATORY SIGN: A sign having the primary purpose of conveying information concerning rules, ordinances or laws.
RETAINER: A framing member mounted around the perimeter of a
sign face, and attached to the sign cabinet structure. It is designed to
attach the face to the cabinet and/or intended to provide a
decorating trim piece.
RETURN: The sides of a channel letter.
REVEAL: An indented detail on a sign.
REVERSE CHANNEL LETTER: A fabricated dimensional letter with opaque face and side walls.
ROOF SIGN: A building mounted sign erected on the roof of a building.
SIDEWALK/SANDWICH SIGN: A moveable sign not secured or attached
to the ground or surface upon which it is located, but supported by its
own frame and most often forming the cross-sectional shape of an A.
SIGN: Any visual display with words or symbols designed to convey information or attract attention.
SIGN BAND: A horizontal area above a multi-tenants’ building’s
entrances, architecturally designed to accommodate signage in a
SIGN FACE: The area of a sign on which copy is intended to be placed.
SIGNAGE: A system of signs.
SIGNATURE BUILDING: Architectural design of a building or structure that reinforces signage.
SIGNCENTRIC DESIGN: Building architectural design which makes the signage the prominent visual feature.
SINGLE-FACE SIGN: A sign with only one face plane.
STATIONARY SIGN: A sign with a power-cord for attachment to a
source of electrical power that is not readily moveable or portable.
STREET FURNITURE: Advertising displays, many which provide a
public amenity, positioned at close proximity to pedestrians for
eye-level viewing or at a curbside to reach vehicular traffic. An
example is a bench sign.
TARGET AUDIENCE: The profile of the most desired consumer
prospects for a product or service, listed by characteristics such as
demography, lifestyle, brand or media consumption, purchase behavior,
etc. This is common to all media.
TEMPORARY SIGN: Any sign not intended for permanent
installation, such as banners and signs at construction sites. They may
be incidental or miscellaneous in nature, such as political and real
TIME AND TEMPERATURE DISPLAY: A variable message sign which
displays current time and temperature in a stationary or alternating
manner. Some also display simple messages.
TIME, PLACE and MANNER REGULATIONS: Consistently applicable
non-discriminatory sign regulations that specify, without reference to
the content of the message, when, how and where a sign can be
displayed, with physical standards, such as but not limited to height,
size and location, that allow the sign to be readable.
TRADE AREA: Most retail businesses have a relatively fixed area
that customers come from to do business at their store In general; the
trade area is either the living or work locale for the customer. The
selling zone of place-based retail business will be dynamic for two
reasons; the customer is moving residences or jobs or the customer is
passing through on a trip that intersects the trade area. The trade
area for most small businesses is 3 to 5 miles.
TRADEMARK: Used by a business to distinguish itself and its
products from the competition. A trademark may include a name, symbol,
word or combination of those. Protected by the federal government and
considered to have financial value. The circled "R" or "Reg. T.M."
printed with the mark indicates that it is a registered trademark. See
United States Trademark Act 15 U.S.C. Section 1127 (1988).
TRAFFIC COUNT: The recording of the vehicles and pedestrians passing a given point, usually in a day.
TRANSFORMER: Electrical equipment that converts input voltage and current to a different output voltage and current.
UL: An abbreviation for Underwriters Laboratories, Inc., a Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratory.
UNDER-CANOPY SIGN: A sign designed to be mounted underneath a canopy.
VARIABLE MESSAGE SIGN: A sign that includes provisions for
message changes. Also called changeable copy panel, changeable copy
sign, time and temperature sign, electronic message center, menu
VARIANCE: Special administrative procedure by which one may
obtain an exception to zoning rules such as height, setback and type of
use. (See the “Legal Considerations” section.)
VISIBILITY: The quality of a letter, number, graphic, or
symbol, which enables the observer to distinguish it from its surrounds
WALL SIGN: A building mounted sign. (See also Fascia sign.)
WAYFINDING: Enabling a person to find his or her way to a given destination thru the use of effective signage.
WINDOW SIGN: A sign that is displayed in a window.