The sign industry covers a broad range of business practices, trades and professions. Sometimes it’s difficult to get everyone on the same page when using terminology to describe the intent of interested parties. So, we have compiled our very own list of industry words and phrases along with their meanings to us. We hope that this is helpful to you when communicating with us as well.


A tough, clear plastic film that`s ink-receptive and a popular substrate for point-of-purchasing advertising.

A method similar to sandblasting, used primarily for marking glass. A stencil of the artwork is applied to the glass, which is then brushed with an acid mixture such as ammonium and sodium bifloride. The surface is then washed and the stencil is removed.

Although sometimes used as a generic term to describe plastics, acrylic is a particular type of plastic characterized by its clarity and colorability (See Poly-Methyl Methacrylate).

Acrylic Paint
A paint with an acrylic resin base.

The ability of two materials to be held together at the molecular level, usually created through the use of an adhesive. May also occur through suction.

Advertising Media
The means by which an advertising message is carried to potential customers; including Internet, magazine, newspaper, radio, signage and television.

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 artistic value.

Age In
The initial lighting up of a neon lamp to achieve full brightness. The amount of time to `age in` can vary widely.

A small pen-sized spray gun utilizing compressed air to generate a fine spray of paint. As air passes through the head of the airbrush, a vacuum is created, siphoning the paint up from its container. Studio versions are generally gravity feed.

Pure aluminum is soft and ductile and unsuitable for commercial use but with the addition of other elements such as copper, manganese, magnesium, silicon and zinc, the alloys produced have both strength and good working characteristics for many uses. In addition to flat sheets, aluminum can also be extruded into complex linear profile. (See extrusion).

Ambient Light
The light in a given area. May be natural or man-made, but does not include direct or internal illumination.

1) In accounting terms, this refers to the method in which an intangible asset is depreciated over a specified period of time.
2) In terms relevant to signage and urban planning, it conveys the "grace period" beginning on the date a sign owner is notified that removal of a previously conforming sign has been ordered, and ending on the date removal is required. This process makes a structure, which was legally erected with all permits, legally non-conforming for period of time. After an amortization period, the sign becomes illegal and non-conforming. Amortization has often been found to be a form of regulatory taking. The legality of amortization depends on state law and numerous other conditions, and is frequently unenforceable.

The sequential switching on and of graphical, pictorial or decorative arrangements of fluorescent lamps, cold cathode tubes, LEDs or bulbs to provide the illusion of movement.

Animated Signs
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 artistic display.

A process that prevents or removes strain by heating glass above a certain temperature and then cooling slowly in a very controlled manner. Used in glass manufacturing.

Process by which a protective aluminum oxide layer is formed on an underlying metal using electrolysis as an integral part of that metal. Anodizing can create a variety of colors and special effects while providing a durable surface.

Annual Average Daily Traffic (Annual ADT)
Measurement representing the total number of vehicles passing a given location each day. These counts can usually be obtained from your State Highway Department.

An inert gas which, when mixed with mercury, is used in fluorescent lamps and neon tubes. In gas discharge tubes, the combination of argon and mercury creates a blue color and ultra-violet light, and by itself argon is a pale lavender.

Any illustrative material which is prepared for reproduction. It acts as controlling mechanism ensuring the graphic quality of items such as company symbols, logotypes, diagrams, text and color.

In a given typeface, the portions of the lower case b,d,f,h,k and l that extend above the height of the lowercase x.

Authorized person
A person employed, appointed or selected by his employer to carry out defined duties, such person being a competent person.

A shelter constructed of non-rigid materials on a supporting frame work which projects from and is supported by the exterior wall of a building. An awning may be illuminated and/or decorated with graphics to serve as a sign.

Awning Sign
A building mounted sign that provides additional functionality as shelter.

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Background panel
A panel onto which individual text or logo elements are fitted, either for support or for easier on-site installation.

Two or more sign faces mounted on a common structure but facing in opposite directions. Many pole signs are back-to-back or double-sided.

A device that operates as part of a fluorescent lamp circuit and is designed primarily to provide sufficient starting voltage. A ballast may also heat the lamp electrodes and, once the tube is in operation, limit the amount of electrical energy going through the lamp.

A sign made of fabric, plastic or other non-rigid material which has no enclosing framework. May be painted, screen-printed, digitally printed or decorated with vinyl. 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.

Base Plate
A flat, thick piece of steel (usually square or rectangular), welded to the bottom of a sign support. The base plate adapts the support to the concrete foundation, to which it is secured with anchor bolts.

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.

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 furniture.

A flange more attractively fitted at an angle to the sign or letter face in such a way as to reflect ambient light. Depending on the angle, a flange may be described as having a bevel (outward sloping) or an inverted bevel (inward sloping).

A type of paint used in the crossover connections between letters to prevent light spill. Special paints have been formulated for this purpose that offer a high-degree of adherence to glass, as well as resistance to weather heat, light, high voltages and corona discharge.

Bleed (1)
In screen printing, bleed refers to the portion of the job which extends beyond the area of the finished print. When the print is cut or die-cut, the bleed is cut away. Also in screen printing, bleed is used to describe the area where one color overprints another for purposes of registration.

Bleed (2)
Sometimes used to describe the visual halation which can occur to an illuminated sign around a letter/logo shape where there is a sharp contrast in colors. (See also Halation).

Block colors
Colors that are printed or painted without gradations, tints or shades.

Blue Gas
An EGL argon/neon gas mixture that contains mostly argon.

Properly a bombarding transformer, a bombarder provides a high voltage and higher current than is ordinarily used with a neon tube for purposes of bombarding.

The process of heating the glass and metal portions of a neon tube to a high temperature to release all absorbed gases and other impurities. Improper bombarding may result in a decrease in illumination, darkening of the tube or premature tube failure.

Band that defines the outer edge of a sign.

Box Sign
A sign which is totally enclosed and which may have internal lighting. Most box signs have translucent plastic portions carrying text on one or more faces.

An alloy of copper and zinc with traces of other materials, long associated with traditional institutional signage. Bronze signs can be either lacquered, peroxides for protection or left to oxidize naturally.

Built-up, flat faced (BUFF) letter
(See flat face(d) letter).

Recommended to bring a neon tube to its proper brilliance, burning-in involves connecting the complete tube to a transformer similar to that which will be used in the installation and allowing it to remain lighted until proper brightness, color and electrical properties are achieved. Also called ageing.

To polish by rubbing. For instance, after gold leaf is applied to a substrate, it is burnished with a cotton cloth to bring up the shine and reveal any holes where the leaf will have to applied a second time.

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 and/or local regulations governing public health, welfare and safety of construction and maintenance.

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 building.

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Cabinet Sign
A sign structure consisting of the frame and face(s), not including the internal components, embellishments or support structure.

See marquee.

Canopy Sign
1) A building-mounted sign functioning as a marquee.
2) A sign mounted on a marquee or canopy.

Computer aided design. The use of a computer with suitable graphics software to create a design, whether technical, engineering or graphical.

Computer aided manufacture. The use of a computer to control the operation of a machine tool. Such a tool may be linked to a computer aided design station and the combination is then known as CADCAM.

A unit of measure indicating the amount of intensity displayed by artificial light. Abbreviated as cd.

Cap height
Height of an upper case letter used as a unit of measure.

Caps and smalls
Type consisting of capitals for initials and small caps in place of lower case.

A method for mass-producing metal or plastic letters or individual metal signs, depending on the material, a rubber or metal mould of the item to be cast is prepared. The molten material is then poured into the mould. Once the cast material is cool, it is removed from the mould and finished.

Compact disk read only memory. Non erasable storage of fonts etc.

Central line of vision
Theoretical line of vision of a person looking straight ahead.

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.

Letter, numeral or punctuation mark.

Chase (1)
The illusion of movement in neon tubes or incandescent bulbs created by turning the light sources on and off in sequence. Chasing is more loosely related to animated signs than to flashing. It is achieved by using a chase, an electric component which can be programmed to provide the on and off sequence.

Chase (2)
To decorate metal, typically by engraving or cutting. Term can also be used to describe placing a normally surface-run cable into a recess to minimize its visual impact.

Small transformer used in fluorescent lighting circuits.

Circuit breaker
Electrical switch that literally breaks the circuit it begins to overload. It can prevent damage to signs and other electrically-driven equipment by automatically disrupting the flow of current.

A facade or decorative cover added to a building (or sign) to hide the structural framework.

Classic letter
A metal channel or trough letter with a polished stainless steel bevel fitted around the leading edge with an exposed cold cathode tube in the trough. [Click here to view example]

The shortest distance between two conductive parts or between a conductive part and the interior surface of the installation, measured through the air.

The process of applying a protective film to a sign. Coating includes such diverse activities as applying a layer of varnish or japan color over gold leaf to laminating clear vinyl over a digitally-produced graphic.

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 Lamp
The name given to neon lamps with tubing diameters larger than 15 mm. Technically any lamp or sign with neon electrodes is a cold cathode lamp. Cold cathode lamps use high voltage and low current, making them very energy efficient.

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 cathode tubing.

Colored Tubing
Transparent glass tubing manufactured with color pigments, typically color examples include ruby red, canary yellow, green, and midnight blue.

Conforming Sign
A sign that is legally installed in accordance with federal, state, and local laws and ordinances.

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 be readable.

The difference or degree of difference between things having similar or comparable natures, such as light and dark areas, colors, or typefaces.

Competent person
A person with sufficient training, knowledge or experience to prevent danger, having regard for the degree of supervision which is appropriate to the nature of the work.

One of the parts or pieces that together make a complete system or design. Reference is often made to design components or the electrical component of a sign.

A font in which the proportion of the letters, numbers and symbols has been altered by reducing their width.

Metal or plastic tubes or piping which protect wires from weather or impact damage.

In design, the use of dissimilar or opposing elements, such as light and dark areas, warm and cool colors or script and block typefaces.

A unit for the electronic conversion of an a.c. supply at one frequency to an a.c. supply at another frequency. The voltage may or may not be altered during the conversion.

The right of the creator of an original work to control the use of that work. In the UK it exists automatically by virtue of the creation of the original work.

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 viewers.

Cost Per Thousand (CPT)
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.)

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.

Creepage distance
The shortest path between two conductive parts or between a conductive part and the interior surface of the installation,measured along the surface of the insulating material.

Cross section
View of an object showing it cut through to expose its internal structure.

Customer Acquisition Cost
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.

The flow of electric charge through a conductor. The unit of current is the Ampere or MilliAmp.

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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 Department of Transportation.

Deck Cabinet
Similar in detail and use as a raceway except larger in cross section to provide a background area.

An electrical supply which is at or about zero potential and disconnected from any live system.

Words, graphics or a combination of the two screen printed on the non-adhesive side of vinyl film, then cut to a specified shape using a plotter or die. Decals are often created when a large number of identical pieces are required for a particular job or customer.

Degrees Kelvin
A unit of measure often used to describe a lamp`s color temperature. It is also a unit of measure of temperature.

The separation of layers in a laminated substrate. The main cause of delaminating is adhesive failure.

Descaled stainless steel
Sheet stainless steel, mill rolled to standard thicknesses and descaled but having no other surface treatment, ready for painting.

In a given typeface, the portions of the lowercase g,j,p,q,y and sometimes the uppercase J that extend below the base line.

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.

Refers to a cut made with a steel rule die manufactured for the purpose of cutting out a particular shape or job. Die-cutting is commonly done when a large number of items - such as decals - are to be cut, or the shape consists of something other than straight lines.

The process of reducing the light output of a lamp or lamps from a high value to a low value. The term is also used for increasing the light output from a low to a high value.

Directional Sign
One including text and/or arrows which direct traffic to (or within) a facility.

Directory Sign
An on-premise 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. The information in a directory typically may include company logos, but no advertising copy.

Double faced
A sign with two parallel but opposing faces; a back-to-back sign.

Double-Faced Sign
A sign with two parallel opposing (back-to-back) faces.

Double line
Two neon tubes running parallel to each other, often used for outlining or borders.

A 180° bend used in neon tubes to produce such letters as R,E,F and G. Often used to describe the technique and placement of the electrode on the rear of a neon tube.

A visual effect created on lettering by the addition of a second identically sized letter, offset slightly to give the appearance of a shadow, thus making two-dimensional lettering appear to be three-dimensional.

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Earth-leakage protective device
A device which will disconnect the mains supply to a transformer or transformers in the event of a short circuit between any part of the secondary high voltage circuit and earth. The device is in two parts, a sensor and a protective switch. The functions of a sensor and protective switch may be combined in one unit.

Edgelit sign
An illuminated sign with the light source positioned along the top and/or around the sides and the light transmitted into the panel. Text or graphics can then be either engraved or applied, giving a much slimmer sign than a full signcase.

Egg Crate
A patterned piece of plastic installed at the bottom of the arch and below the light source in illuminated awnings to protect the tubes, keep them clean, and help soften the light.

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.

A device fitted at either end of a tube to allow the electrical discharge within the tube to be connected to an external circuit. When an electrode is connected to the negative pole of a supply, it will emit electrons and is called a cathode. When it is connected to the positive pole of a supply, it will receive electrons and is called an anode.

Electrode Shell
Refers to the metal cylinder inside the glass envelope of the electrode. It is the source of the electric discharge in the neon lamp.

Electro-mechanical sign
A matrix or seven-bar sign in which a disc or bar is turned electro-mechanically to display either of its two faces. One face is colored to blend into the background and the other is colored to contrast with the background. These are most commonly found in price display signs on petrol forecourts.

Electronic display
A general term referring to any type of electronic programmable display.

A plan or drawing made from ground level showing the features of one side of a structure or sign.

Embassy letter
An internally illuminated letter constructed from metal back and returns with an acrylic face, in turn fitted with a reflective, highly-polished bevel to enhance its daytime appearance. [Click here to view example]

Embassy Royal letter
Similar to an Embassy letter but with outward sloping returns.

The process of producing raised letters, particularly those produced by engraving dies or plates.

Design features of a sign face which are raised; that is, which protrude outward from the surface.

Method of marking metal, plastic or glass in shallow, negative relief utilizing a bit or graver. Engraving may be done freehand, using a pantograph or computer-driven equipment. The engraved area may be filled to create greater contrast.

Ensuring electrical safety
The process of switching off the electrical supply to an installation, ensuring that the supply cannot be switched back on again, checking that the supply to the installation is dead and then proving that the instrument used to do this is reading correctly.

Entrance canopy
A canopy or awning attached to a building's facade to provide protection and/or lighting above the main entrance doorway.

A common form of glue that creates a strong adhesive between substances.

Encapsulated post script file, a standard graphics file format based on vectors.

To place a sign in its final location; install.

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.

Exploded view
Type of sketch where the components of the sign are shown separately or in groups, rather than as a whole. However, the segments are arranged to show their relationship to each other.

Exposed tubing
Sign where the surface of the tube(s) (normally neon) is visible.

Externally illuminated sign
An illuminated sign in which the light source is placed in front of the sign face.

Extruded Aluminum
Used extensively for sign boxes, retainers and divider bars, the name comes from the formation process in which aluminum is forced (extruded) through a die.

A linear profile produced by forcing a raw material (usually aluminum or a plastic) through a die to create a particular, often complex, shape. Term often used to refer to the extruded aluminum members that make up the frames of awnings or sign cases.

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To manufacture a sign or major sign components from raw materials or parts.

To architects, this usually means the front or the most prominent "face" of a building. In the sign industry, its meaning extends to any area of a building where a sign may be installed effectively.

(1) The decorated surface of a sign the area on which the copy and art is placed.
(2) Traditionally the printed surface of any type character. It now means the group or family to which a particular type of design belongs. (See also Typeface).

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 sign which is fixed on vertical surfaces such as a wall. It will not normally have a significant projection from that wall. It is intended to be viewed from a position opposite to the mounting surface.

Items that help hold a sign together and/or in position, including nuts and bolts.

Feature joints
A joint in metal or plastic panels which may be recessed. Sometimes referred to as an expressed joint or shadow joint or gap.

Fibre optic sign
A sign in which light is transmitted through optical fibres, the ends of the fibres being arranged to form either the dots of a matrix sign or the outline of a message.

Filament lamp sign
A power illuminated sign that uses tungsten filament lamps.

File format
The way in which a program saves data to work with others using different applications.

Fill Pressure
The pressure of inert gas that is put in a neon lamp after processing.

Finger post sign
A post mounted sign that functions as a direction sign and has one or more sign planks that point in the general direction of the destinations.

Fireman switch
Part of the statutory requirements for the installations of electrical signs.

First Surface
The most external surface of a sign face; the surface most exposed to the elements.

A frame for the sign or letter face. This usually consists of a thin strip of metal, attached at 90° the return of the sign and is designed to retain the plastic face.

A device for switching one or more lamp circuits on and off. Although flashers may be constructed to provide any animation sequence, certain popular sequences are available. These include flashers to provide border chasing and spelling effects.

Flashing sequence
The order in which the contacts (or semiconductor switches) of a flasher are operated and the time intervals between their operation.

Flat face(d) letter
A non-illuminated individual letter or character, normally constructed from metal, with a flat front and perpendicular returns. [Click here to view example]

Flex Face
A sign face made of a flexible vinyl material reinforced with a fabric and then stretched over a frame.

Flexible face material
Thin translucent sheeting, usually of PVC or polyester material, reinforced by internal fibres, which may be used as a sign face and decorated by a legend. The material has the advantage of being able to cover large areas in one piece.

Having the quality of appearing to take in radiation and send it back out as visible light. Refers to the appeared on some specialty colors of paint, vinyl or screen printing ink.

Fluorescent lamp or tube
A type of lamp in which the light is produced by the fluorescence of a phosphor coating in the tube. In a fluorescent lamp, the tube is coated with phosphors and then filled with a mix of argon gas and mercury. When electrical current passes between the electrodes, the gas mixture emits ultra-violet (UV) light. The UV is absorbed by the phosphors, which then radiate the energy as visible light. A starter ballast help regulate the current and voltage necessary to ionize the gases in the tube. Fluorescent lamps are more efficient than incandescent bulbs and are a popular source of illumination for many signs.

Fluorescent tube sign
An illuminated sign that uses tubular fluorescent lamps.

A way of arranging lines of copy in which they are aligned perpendicular to the right (flush right) or left (flush left) margins or with both (full flush) margins. Also known as justification.

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.

Foam board
A type of lightweight, rigid board used for interior signs. Foam boards consist of a foam center sheet laminated on one or both sides by a variety of substrates.

A set of letters, numerals, and shapes, which conform to a specific set of design criteria. Refers to the style of a particular typeface designed of letters, numbers and symbols, such as Helvetica Bold or Times Roman. Until the development of the computer and scaleable fonts, references to fonts also included the size, such as 10 point.

The projecting base of a sign pole or pylon, including the portion that is buried in the ground.

Footing or Foundation
The concrete substructure of a ground-mounted sign. When of cube shape, it is referred to as a block foundation. When round or tube-shaped, it`s called a caisson.

Refers to a plastic face or letter that has been heated and shaped to give it dimension.

To draw without the use of measurements or instruments.

Freestanding Sign
A sign that is not attached to a building.

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.

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Indicates steel or iron that has been protected by a zinc coating. The galvanized coating protects the underlying metal 15-30 years, but requires a special primer before coating.

Gauge (swg)
A method for measuring the thickness of sheet metal. In the sign industry, most sheet metal ranges from 10-26 swg, where 10 swg is approximately 3mm thick. The higher the gauge number, the thinner the sheet.

Considered by many traditionalists to be the highest form of sign art, gilding is the application of thin metal sheets (see gold leaf) to glass, signs and vehicles. After the work surface is clean and the design is marked out, a gelatine sizing is brushed on the area to be gilded. The gold leaf is then carried to the work site through the use of the gilder`s tip and static electricity. After the entire area is dry, the gold leaf is burnished and holes and imperfections in the gild are filled. The final step is painting the backs of the letters (and an outline) if the gild is reversed on a window, or outlining them if it is a direct gild.

Glare results from areas of high brightness in the visual field and can cause discomfort, irritation and obscuration of the message.

Glass sleeves
On some older neon tube installations, clear glass units designed to add insulation to the electrodes and other wiring.

This shine on a smooth surface, such as paint or vinyl. (See also matt).

Gold leaf
Literally, gold manufactured into thin leaves; the gold used in gilding. Gold leaf comes between sheets of tissue, with each leaf 3 3/8" square. The leaves are packaged in books of 25, and a cardboard box of 20 books is sold as a pack. Gold leaf comes in a range of colors and carats, with 14-18 carat for use on interior applications such as glass. The best gold leaf, 23 carat, is reserved for exterior work on vehicles and signs.

Grid tubes
Neon tubes laid out in parallel or concentric lines for lighting translucent signs or channel letters.

Ground Sign
A freestanding sign with no visible support structure.

Grommet (1)
A rubber (or similar) eyelet fitted to the inside of the cable entry hole on the rear of a sign to protect the cable from chaffing against the metal edge of hole and, where appropriate, prevent ingress of water.

Grommet (2)
A reinforced metal eyelet found in banners used to receive cords or other fasteners.

Ground clearance
The shortest distance between the lowest portion of a sign or awning and the ground.

Ground sign
A free-standing sign that is mounted on poles or braces, without any secondary support.

GTO Cable
Electrical wire specifically designed to carry the high voltage of a neon transformer.

Guardian letter
A built up, metal letter with a curved face from highly-polished stainless steel can be either non-illuminated or have halo illumination to add night-time impact. [Click here to view example]

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Hairline joint
Smallest possible joint between two edges.

An effect caused by extreme contrast between the illuminated and unilluminated portions of a sign and which affects the ability of the eye to focus on that sign. The effect is also dependent on color.

In screen printing, the process of converting images into dots of various sizes with equal spacing between centers.

A ring of light. In sign making, the effect achieved by reverse channel letters, which appear to be ringed by light because the lights source is reflecting on the background from which the letters are pegged-out.

Halo letter
A type of sign construction where the light generated within the letter or emblem is allowed to floodlight the surface on which the sign is mounted. The letter or emblem appears as a dark shape against a lit background. [Click here to view example]

Hanging sign
A double-faced sign which hangs from a bracket or support and projects from a wall, building or pole. Also called a projecting sign.

A separate board above the rest of a sign that gives it a headline or contains a different advertising message for the same product. Most often seen with point-of-purchase advertising.

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 voltage
A voltage exceeding 1000 V a.c. or 1500 V d.c. between conductors, or 600 V a.c. or 900 V d.c. between conductors and earth. Cold cathode or neon signs operate at up to 10,000 V.

High-reactance transformer
This is sometimes called a "stray-field transformer". It includes a construction which combines the function of a step-up transformer and ballast.

High-Rise Sign
A tall freestanding sign.

Hot cathode
An electrode which, during normal operation, has its temperature raised to a red heat. It is coated with an emissive material and emits electrons by a process known as thermionic emission. Fluorescent tubes are hot cathode.

Hot cathode lamp
A lamp that uses coils and a ballast such as fluorescent light bulbs.

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Identification sign
A sign giving the business`s name only for purposes of identification. An identification sign can also be one provided by an advertiser with his name and/or slogan, as well as that of the business displaying the sign.

The luminous flux density at the surface being lit, usually measured with a light meter. The unit is the lux, one lumen per square meter.

Illuminated sign
A sign that emits or reflects light from either an internal (electric) source or external floodlights.

Illuminated sign case
A sign consisting of a cabinet containing a light source surrounded by one or more translucent faces which may be illuminated for visibility.

Impulse Buying
An unplanned or shifted purchase.

Incandescent Bulb
A lamp that produces light through the application of electrical energy to a wire filament, which glows as it is heated.

Interior Signs
Signs that are located inside a building or other facility.

Internally Illuminated Signs
A sign that is illuminated by a light source that is contained inside the sign.

The common form of electric lamp; which unlike fluorescent or neon, generates light from a heated filament in a vacuum.

Incandescent bulb
A lamp that produces light through the application of electrical energy to a wire filament, which glows as it is heated. The average household light bulb is an incandescent bulb. It remains a popular light source for many signs.

Inert Gas
A gas that does not react with other substances. They include neon, argon, helium, krypton and xenon. They are also referred to as noble or rare gases.

Initial lumens
The lumen output of a lamp, measured after an agreed ageing period - (1 hour for incandescent and 100 hours for discharge lamps) under standard test conditions.

Input end (low-voltage circuit)
Refers to the part of the device between the feeding point and the input terminals of the transformer, converter or invertors.

The person, qualified in sign installation practice, who takes responsibility for the quality of the installation and its testing.

Insulating sleeve
Insulation designed to be placed over the exposed high-voltage connections at tube electrodes or over cable-end insulators. Some types of insulating sleeves were previously called "bell glasses".

The density or opaqueness of a color. Also, the amount of light put out by a lamp.

Internally illuminated sign
An illuminated sign in which the light source is placed within the sign.

An electric energy transducer that converts unidirectional current to alternating current .It may also include means of transforming the supply voltage and arrangements which help provide the starting voltage, prevent cold starting, reduce stroboscopic effects, correct the power factor and/or suppress radio interference.

IP ratings
The IP rating system provides a means of classifying the degrees of protection from dust, water and impact.

International Sign Association.

Alphabet that consists of sloping characters.

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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.

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A type of clear finishing material similar to varnish and preferred by sign makers because of its abilities to dry quickly and not be affected by the presence of dust.

A unit of measure of light luminance.

A process by which different materials are layered and then bonded together using adhesion. The end result may be the creation of a substrate such as medium density overlay (MDO) or the protection of the underlying surface, as when a clear plastic film is laminated to a decorated surface.

Columns or rows of lamps. Also used to refer to the part of larger message centers that the public sees; columns and rows of lamps.

Light is produced by lamps but, because of they are made as long thin tubes, most discharge lamps used by the sign industry are referred to as "Tubes".

Landscape format
Proportion of a sign in which height is appreciably shorter than width.

Lap joints
Method of making overlapping vertical joints in acrylic panels. Usually used with supporting clear reinforcement.

Stands for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation. An intense light beam with a very narrow band width gaining popularity as a tool for engraving and cutting.

The total arrangement of a sign`s graphics. Shows the overall plan of how the artwork and copy will be arranged on the face.

LCD (liquid crystal display)
A type of electronic sign utilizing liquid crystals that become opaque or clear when exposed to a controlled voltage. Although LCD`s are most common in calculators and digital watches, they are also used in some time and temperature displays.

Lead coated Steel
Sheet steel treated with a lead coating and once used extensively in the sign industry for its rust resistance and soldering qualities. Not used in large quantity today because of the same lead coating.

Lead glass
So called because it contains around 25% lead oxide and popular in most parts of the world for use in the manufacture of cold cathode tubes and in particular the electrodes.

LED (light emitting diode)
A type of electronic sign that utilizes hundreds of light emitting diodes electronic chip and colored lens assemblies in single and tri-color matrixes. LED`s are physically flexible and inexpensive to operate when compared to other message centers.

The characteristics of letters, numbers, graphics, or symbols that make it possible to differentiate one from the other. See Conspicuity. The quality of a sign`s typefaces that allows it to be easily read and deciphered. (See readability).

Letter space
Horizontal space between characters.

Light emitting diode
(See LED).

Light Output Ratio
The ratio of the total light emitted by a luminaire (light fitting) to the total light output of the lamp or lamps it contains. It is always less than 1.

Line space
Vertical space between adjoining lines of text.

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.

Liquid crystal display
(See LCD).

An electrical circuit which is electrically charged.

Live part
A conductor or conductive part intended to be energized in normal use, including the neutral conductor but, by convention, not a P.E.N conductor.

A design that represents goods, identity or service. Traditionally, any group of type characters (3 or more characters) such as a company name or product name linked or grouped and displayed in a fixed format and not to be confused with company symbols, abstract or pictorial. The term is currently used to describe any design or symbol, with or without supporting lettering, prepared for a corporation or organization which forms the centerpiece of its corporate identity.

Low voltage
A voltage normally exceeding 50 V a.c. or 120 V whether between conductors or to earth, but not exceeding 1000V a.c. or 1500 V d.c. between conductors, or 600 V a.c. or 900 V between conductors and earth.

Lower case letter
Letter in an alphabet other than an upper case (capital) letter.

The standard measure of light radiation. (For example, one candle emits 12.5664 lumens).

A measure of the brightness of a sign. It is usually applied to signs with a significant surface area (not point sources) and is expressed in terms of Candelas per Square Meter.

Luminance Ratio
Any sign face will have parts which have a higher luminance than other parts. The ratio of the luminance of the brighter parts to that of the less bright parts is called the luminance ratio. If this is too large, the illumination of the sign face will appear patchy.

The quality of giving off light by the absorption of radiant energy. Used to describe any cold light.

Luminous (discharge) tube
Another name for a neon tube. A luminous tube consists of a sealed glass vacuum tube with an electrode at each end containing a specific gas. As an electrical current is passed between the electrodes, the gas is ionized and emits light. The color of the light is determined by the gas and phosphor, which the tube contains.

Luminous efficacy
The lumen output of a lamp per Watt of power it consumes.

Luminous flux
The total light emitted by a source or falling on a surface. The unit of light is the lumen.

Luminous Intensity
The luminous flux in a given direction (from a reflector lamp, for example). The unit is the candela (one lumen per steradian).

(See lumens).

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Maintaining electrical safety
The process of "Ensuring electrical safety" followed by the application of means to ensure that circuit cannot inadvertently be made live again.

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 accidents.

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.

The part of the neon pumping system to which the tubes are attached for pumping. The manifold is a system of vacuum tight tubing arranged so that one or more tubes can be attached to it, evacuated with a vacuum system, and filled with rare gases.

Space between the message zone or symbol and the outer edge of a signboard,margins and any border. Sometimes refers to original control area.

A projecting structure permanently attached to, but not a part of the roof. Also known as a canopy.

In painting or screen printing, the process of covering usually with tape or paper areas to protect them from receiving subsequent layers of paint or ink.

Matrix sign
A variable sign on which messages are formed by the controlled display of individual units of dots, bars or other shapes arranged on a pre-determined grid.

Having a dull surface, not shiny. (See also gloss).

Menu board
A changeable point of purchase advertising display that allows the retailer to list products and prices. A variable message sign that allows a retailer to list products and prices. For example, the bill of fare for a fast food restaurant.

Message Center
Any sign that displays changeable copy through electronic or mechanical means.

Message zone
Zone on a sign allocated to a message.

Information or instructions to be conveyed.

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.)

A heavy, silver-white metallic element, liquid at room temperature. When heated to a vapor through which an electric current is discharged, it produces a bluish-green light. It is mixed with rare gases typically argon, to produce ultraviolet light necessary to excite phosphors in neon and fluorescent lamps.

Mercury tube
A low pressure discharge tube containing mercury vapor to assist electrical discharge. Tubes usually contain either argon or a neon/argon gas mixture.

Mild steel
A low carbon alloy of iron and carbon, most commonly used in angle and channel form to provide structural strength and rigidity for signs and structures.

Monument sign
A free standing sign sitting directly on the ground or mounted on a low base.

A surface finish that is rough or uneven; to mark or pattern with irregular patches of color.

Molded letter
An individual letter or character formed by plastic or acrylic sheet being heated and then shaped over a mould. After cooling, the sheet retains the shape of the mould and after trimming the molded piece is then either used as a shaped letter face or as a letter on its own. [Click here to view example]

The material usually wood, framing a signboard.

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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.

Means the opposite of transparent, and may refer to the substrate itself or to painted and pigmented areas of a face panel which block light. Some plastics are translucent; that is, somewhere between opaque and transparent.

Open-circuit protective device
A device which will disconnect the mains supply to a transformer or transformers in the event of an interruption of the secondary high voltage circuit.

Output end (lamp circuit)
Refers to the part of the device between the output terminals of the transformer, converter or invertors and the discharge tubes inclusive.

Oven pumping
A process whereby the temperature of the tube is raised during pumping by placing it within an oven. The electrodes are usually separately heated by means of a high frequency induction heater.

Amount of material either cut or printed in one panel (or tile) that duplicates what`s done in the panel (tile). The overlapped image allows for alignment when assembling and installing a larger image.

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A liquid coating made up of pigment suspended in a vehicle or binder. Common paint vehicles include resin dissolved in solvents or water. Paint may be brushed, sprayed or rolled on a substrate. It dries to a hard film that bonds the pigment to the surface and may often be stove enameled to enhance its durability.

Painted Wall Sign
See building mounted sign.

(1) The part of a sign fitted to a signcase to become the front most, continuous surface.
(2) A sub-division of a large sign resulting from constraints in raw material sheet size or the working area of a machine, such as laser or router.

Pantone Matching System (PMS)
Standardized series of thousands printing ink of colors, each with specific color formulations and identification number. PMS colors are duplicated in swatch books and in computer graphics programs to allow exact duplication of colors in printing and other marking processes, such as sign making. However, in sign making where colors are often viewed with transmitted rather than reflected light, a precise match can seldom be made. Beware apparent color differences between coated and uncoated variations when trying to match to other media such as paints.

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 dembossed face.

Parpaet Sign
A sign mounted on top of the parapet of a building. (See building mounted sign.)

Perceived size
Size that a character or symbol appears to be because of its relationship to its surroundings, as against its actual size.

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 sign.

A license granted by the appropriate authorities to allow a sign to be erected. (See also Planning Permission)

A trade name for a brand or acrylic sheeting, often used as a generic term for acrylic.

A fine powder which is coated on the inside of tubing and has the property of emitting visible light when irradiated by ultra-violet energy. Different phosphors emit light of different colors.

Phosphorescent sign
A sign that uses phosphors as a pigmentation and emits light for a period of time after the energy source has been removed.

Chemical powders used to coat the inside of fluorescent tubes. They can become excited when subjected to ultra-violet light produced by the discharge in a luminous tube. A range of phosphors is available and is capable of producing a large variety of colors and whites.

A pictorial symbol commonly found in environmental graphics and regulatory (traffic) signs.

A picture on a sign that does not involve animation. Common pictorials can range from one color graphic symbols to full color scenics and portraits, such as those found on pub signs.

A compound used to color other materials, such as paints and inks. Pigments are insoluble, finely ground particles and may be organic or inorganic.

Planning Permission
Authorization required from the Local Planning Authority to install an illuminated sign or billboard. (For details of the regulations which apply in the UK, click on Planning on the menu bar above).

A generic term for a wide range of synthetic materials which consist of long chains of polymers that are moldable and soften when heated. Plastic used in the sign industry are typically of the thermoplastic variety, which means they can melt and solidify repeatedly.

Plastic Faced Letter
Channel letter in which the front of the channel is covered by a plastic face, hiding the neon tube from view. (See also Regency and Embassy letters).

A trade name for a brand or acrylic sheeting, often used as a generic term for acrylic.

Device that interprets information sent from a computer and moves a drawing device or tool head to a series of co-ordinates based on the device`s X and Y axes. Sign makers use a plotter equipped with a knife to cut vinyl, with the X and Y co-ordinates forming an outline that can be weeded and installed on a surface. Sign-cutting plotters can be flatbed, where the knife-head is in a mobile gantry that moves to X and Y points; or drum, where the material is moved to find X co-ordinates and the knife drawing device or head moves to Y points along a stationary gantry.

A common type of wood product sold in 4' x 8' sheets. Plywood is made of a number of thin sheets of wood laminated together with the grain of the adjacent layers perpendicular, except for the two outside plies, which are parallel to provide stability.

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. A free standing sign, usually double-faced, mounted on a round pole, square tube or other fabricated member without any type of secondary support.

Polished stainless steel
Stainless steel with a highly polished, almost chrome-like, front surface.

A plastic material with greater impact strength than acrylic. Examples of trade names for polycarbonate include Makrolon and Lexan.

Polyester powder coating
An alternative to a paint finish in which the Polyester powder is given a negative charge and applied to a surface with a positive charge, using a spray gun, before oven baking at a high temperature.

Poly-methyl methacrylate (Acrylic)
A very stable plastic material, widely used in sign manufacture. Examples of trade names for acrylic plastics include Perspex, Plexiglas and Altuglas.

A type of plastic used in banners, noted for its flexibility at low temperatures and its resistance to chemicals.

A type of hard foam product used in sign production. It has the density and characteristics of wood, but only one-third of the weight and can be used for carving and sandblasting signs much like wood.

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.

Porcelain Sign
A traditional type of metal sign utilizing porcelain enamel paints topped by a ceramic slip to create a durable, glass like surface that`s impervious to the environments. After each color is applied, the paint is dried. The completed work is then coated with the slip, dried a final time, then fired at an extremely high heat. Porcelain signs were particularly popular in the early 20th century. (See also vitreous enamel).

Portable Sign
An on-premise sign which is capable of being repositioned without the need for specialist help. These could include free-standing signs or notices as well as point-of-purchase signs.

Portrait Format
Proportion of a sign in which height is appreciably longer than width.

Post mounted sign
A sign that is fixed to one or more sign poles.

A series of paper sheets printed for use on a billboard. Also, a sign typically printed on paper and intended for indoor use. Other substrates used for posters include plastic and cloth.

Powder coating
(See Polyester Powder Coating).

Power-factor correction
A method of reducing the supply current of a reactive circuit to a value which is close to that which would be expected from the power of the circuit. With inductive circuits, this will usually be achieved by connecting a suitable capacitor across the supply terminals.

An adhesive that reacts when pressure is applied to the surfaces it is between. Sometimes used to refer to vinyl with a pressure-sensitive adhesive.

Primary colors
The three colors from which all other colors can be created. In painting, the primary colors are yellow, red and blue. In process color, the three are yellow, magenta (red) and cyan (blue). In light, the primary colors are red, green and blue.

Primary wiring
Electrical wiring that directly connects a transformer to the breaker box.

To coat a substrate prior to the application of paint or adhesive. A primer coat prevents subsequent coats of paint or adhesive from being absorbed. The process is intended to improve the performance and life of the product.

Projecting Sign
A sign which projects at right angles to a wall and is designed to be viewed from up or down the street. Projecting signs usually have graphics on either side. A building mounted sign with the faces of the sign perpendicular to the building fascia.

Protective switch
That part of a protective device which disconnects the mains supply to a transformer or transformers. It is operated by an electrical signal obtained from a sensor.

A full-sized example to serve as a model from which other similar or identical signs will be produced. A trial model.

A manufacturing process for producing continuous lengths of reinforced plastic structural shapes. Raw materials are liquid resin mixture and fiberglass which is pulled through a resin bath and a heated dye so that a rigid, cured profile is formed.

A process to remove all air and other impurities from the tube, before it is filled with the desired gases. The process is usually combined with heating the tube to ensure that all impurities are released from its components.

Pumping system
In neon tube production, the pumping system is used to remove impurities from the tubes and fill them with rare gases. A pumping system typically consists of a manifold, vacuum pump, rare gases, a bombarder and electrical controllers.

A letter or graphic which is cut out, then pushed through a corresponding space that has been removed from the sign substrate. The push-through is typically a different color and/or material than the rest of the sign.

Polyvinyl chloride, the most common plastic in use in the world. PVC is extruded or cast as sheets in a variety of colors and thicknesses which are weather and chemical resistant.

Any free standing sign that is not a pole or ground sign.

A type of glass used in the production of lamps, fluorescent and cold cathode, in parts of Europe and particularly France. Not used widely elsewhere because of the higher temperatures needed to form it but is less susceptible to thermal stress.

Pylon Sign
A freestanding sign with visible support structure or with the support structure enclosed with a pole cover.

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Quality Assurance
All those planned and systematic actions necessary to provide adequate confidence that a product or service will satisfy given requirements for quality.

Quality Control
The operational techniques and activities that are used to fulfil requirements for quality.

Quality Management
That aspect of the overall management function that determines and implements the quality policy.

Quality Policy
The overall quality intentions and direction of an organization as regards quality, as formally expressed by top management.

Quality System
The organizational structure, responsibilities, procedures, processes and resources for implementing quality management. The requirements for a quality system are given in ISO 9000.

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An electrical enclosure that may also serve as a mounting structure for the sign.

(Also conspicuity.) The quality that enables the observer to correctly perceive the message. In transportation engineering, this word is being replaced by conspicuity.

In signage, this refers to the ability of a viewer to remember the message even when they are not viewing it.

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.

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.

The sides of a channel letter.

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.

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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.

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 signcentric manner.

Sign Face
The area of a sign on which copy is intended to be placed.

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.

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The stickiness of an adhesive under a given condition. Some adhesives require a particular temperature range for maximum tack.

Tactile Sign
A sign -- or area within a larger sign -- that conveys its message through raised or engraved art, making it accessible to the visually impaired.

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.

A pattern, often made of thin metal or wood. Often used in drawing and woodworking.

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 estate signs.

Message conveyed in characters only.

Any process of forming thermoplastic sheet which consists of heating the sheet and forcing it onto a mold surface. Also known as pan forming.

Three D (3D) engraving
Routing procedure where the tool bit can be moved independently along the up and down Z axis while still traveling an X/Y axes tool path. Based upon the tool bit`s shape and width, 3D engraving can create reliefs and hand-chiseled looks when removing material from a substrate.

A type of rough sketch. Some sign artists prepare several thumbnail sketches of a job, varying their layouts and fonts, before preparing one or two more complete ideas to take to a client.

Tagged image file format, a standard graphics file format used for scanned bit-mapped images.

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.

A switch which utilizes a clock or timer to automatically turn on and off electric signs at set times each day.

A color made lighter than the original by adding white to it.

The effect on a color brought about by blending it with another color.

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.

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.

Electrical equipment that converts input voltage and current to a different output voltage and current. In general, a transformer is any apparatus that continuously increases or decreases the voltage of a power supply. They are an important element in all neon signs, due to the high voltage required. (Fluorescent lamps require a specialized type of transformer unit called a ballast.)

The property of a substrate, vinyl, paint or ink to allow the passage of some light through it without being transparent. Internally illuminated signs rely on translucent acrylics, paints and vinyls.

Trough Letter
A metal channel letter with an exposed cold cathode tube in the trough for illumination. [Click here to view example]

Tube Colors
Tubing for neon signs is produced as a clear glass, or in colors. Different tube colors serve as filters that only allow the desired color to shine through. In many cases the only way to achieve rich primary colors is through colored glass.

Tube Diameter
The standard measurement for neon tubes, expressed in millimeters.

Tube Supports
Insulators that support a neon tube, as well as hold it away from the background surface and provide some impact resistance.

Set of characters derived from one basic design.

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An abbreviation for Underwriters Laboratories, Inc., a Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratory.

Under-Canopy Sign
A sign designed to be mounted underneath a canopy.

Ultraviolet Light (UV)
UV has both a negative and positive influence on the sign industry. When UV strikes certain surfaces, such as the phosphors in neon and fluorescent tubes, it is transformed into visible light. UV is also used for curing some screen printing inks. On the other hand, ultraviolet light is the prime cause of pigment failure (fading) in some paints and vinyls, especially red ones.

Upper Case Letter
Capital letter in an alphabet.

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Vacuum Forming
Method of forming sign faces in which a plastic sheet is clamped in a stationary frame, heated and forced down by a vacuum onto a mold.

Vacuum Pump
A device used by a neon shop to draw a vacuum on the inside of a neon lamp.

Value engineering
Assessing a sign that is based on the cost of its materials, design, installation and maintenance, with the goal of getting the best value for the money.

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.)

Variable Message Sign
A sign on which the canopy can be changed, either manually through the use of attachable letters (usually plastic) or electronically using incandescent bulbs or light emitting diodes.

Variable Plank Sign
A variable sign that consists of a frame within which pre-printed sign planks can be assembled.

Variable Sign
Sign where the message may be changed readily.

Video Matrix Sign
A matrix sign in which the individual dots are formed from cathode ray tubes.

Video Sign
A variable sign displayed on a television screen.

Polyvinylchloride (PVC) film that, in sign-making, is backed with an adhesive that will create a strong bond to a surface when pressure is applied.

Capable of being seen by the human eye. A sign may be visible without being readable or legible.

The quality of a letter, number, graphic, or symbol, which enables the observer to distinguish it from its surrounds or background.

Vitreous enamel
A hard, brittle glass coating applied to steel by firing at high temperature in an oven. Some limitations to panel size and complexity of shape due to distortion at temperature but is very hard wearing.

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Wall mounted
A single-face sign intended to be mounted on a wall. Another name for a fascia sign.

Wall sign
In the most literal sense, a sign that is painted on a wall. The term is often expanded to include flat signs that are placed on or attached to the wall of a building. (See also fascia sign). A building mounted sign. (See also Fascia sign.)

Water resistant
A face that has had some treatment to make it resistant to the damage or deterioration caused by water. A face that is water repellent.

A word that has gained popularity with the adoption of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). In its most literal sense, wayfinding is the ability of a person to find his or her way to a given destination. While the words and graphics on a building`s signs are important to the process, wayfinding also depends on the information inherent in a building`s design. To create truly successful wayfinding, architects and environmental graphic designers need to work in close partnership to integrate both elements.

The basic term for describing the design strength of a sign. Standard windload is 30 PSF (pounds per square foot), which can withstand winds up to approximately 90 MPH. Heavy windload is 55 PSF, which can withstand approximately 110 MPH.

Window sign
A sign that is displayed in a window. A sign that is mounted for display on a window, and intended to be viewed from the outside.

Word space
Horizontal space between words.

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X Axis
Theoretical horizontal line providing a lengthwise reference point for plotters and routers.

X Height
In a given typeface, the height of the lowercase letters which do not have ascenders or descenders.

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Y Axis
Theoretical vertical line providing a longitudinal reference point for plotters and routers.

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Z Axis
Theoretical line providing a depth reference point for routers.

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