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Acrylic – Acrylic is a type of plastic characterized by clarify, transparent and opaque color ranges, and printability.

A.D.A – Americans with Disabilities Act – a legislation that was enacted by the federal government in 1991 in order to remove barriers in the environment that limit any individual’s ability to function in the physical environment. Title III pertains to signs.

Advanced Notice Sign – A sign used to provide an advance notice prior to a roadway, street, or entrance. Similar to a directional, but usually announces a single destination.

Aluminum – A light common material used in sign panels, poles and frames.

Angle Iron – A length of structural icon or steel having a 90-degree (right angle) bend running parallel to the length.

Animated Sign – A sign depicting action, motion, light, or color changes through electrical or mechanical means.

Anodized Finish – An electrochemical coating applied to the surface of metal, to harden, protect, and enhance the beauty and durability of metal surface. The type of finish typically applied to aluminum may include tints, colors, or clear coatings. The anodizing process builds an oxide film on the surface by making the aluminum the anode, or electrically positive element, in a suitable electrolyte (chromic or sulfuric acid solution).

Architectural Sign– A term that was coined in the 1960s to identify visual communications and wayfinding information in the built environment. Hence, physical enhancements to a building or space with the purpose of identifying or communicating information.

Awning – A shelter usually constructed of non-rigid material on a supporting framework that projects from and is supported by the exterior wall of a building. An awning may or may not be illuminated.

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Back-Lighted Sign – A sign consisting of a cabinet containing a light source surrounded by one or more translucent faces, which may be illuminated for visibility.

Back-to-Back – 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.

Ballast – An electrical device required for operating fluorescent lamps.

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

Billboard – A large outdoor board used for posting advertising. Billboard/outdoor advertising displays include, but are not limited to, bulletins, wall murals, wrapped posters, 30-sheet posters, and eight-sheet posters.

Blade Sign – A type of projecting sign mounted on a building fascia or storefront pole or attached to a surface perpendicular to the sign’s surface and to the normal flow of traffic.

Bleed – The portion of an image that extends beyond the area of finished print. When the print is cut, the bleed is cut away.

Blind Fasteners – Mechanical attachment devices hidden from view that facilitate the attachment of signs, letters or sculptured pieces to another surface.

Bollard – A thick low post, or series of posts that help define or border a pedestrian or other public area.

Braille – Raised bumps or dots set in established patterns to communication letters and words to the visually impaired. Grade 2 Braille is required by A.D.A, due to its more widespread use in the visually impaired community.

Break-Away Foundation – A pole and foundation system where the pole detaches clearly from the foundation upon impact.

Bronze – An alloy or copper and tine with traces of other materials (zinc, nickel, and lead), used for sculpture, sign plaques, and dimensional lettering. Letters or forms can be cut out of solid material (using a band saw or a waterjet). It can be cast (sand-cast, ceramic mold-cast). It can be fabricated from thin sheets to create dimensional letters (fabricated and soldered). Bronze signs may be lacquered to prevent oxidation, pre-oxidation, or left to oxidant naturally. May finishes are available: painted, oil-rubbed, clear lacquered, polished, brushed, etc.

Brushed Finish – A non-reflective, textured finish mechanically or chemically applied to metal for decorative purposes. Grained effect is usually created using sandpaper. Long grain finish applied by hand or via belt sander. Short grain finish applied using a drum sander.

Building Sign – A sign that is applied or attached to a building.

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CAD – Computer-aided design.

CAM – Computer-aided machine.

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

Canopy Sign – A building-mounted sign functioning as a marquee. A sign mounted on a marquee or attached to or printed on the fascia or valence of a canopy, awning, or marquee, or hanging from the soffit (underside) of such structure.

Carved Letters – Usually v-carved, u-carved or squared-carved into wood or stone. Created by hang-carving with chisel and mallet, sandblasting, or by a computer-controlled router or engraver.

Carved Signs – Letters or shapes incised or relieved into sign substrate surface. Can be routed, hand-carved or sandblasted.

Cast Dimensional Letter/Numeral – Typically cast aluminum, bronze, acrylic, or resin.

Changeable Copy Sign – A sign on which the copy can be changed, either manually through the use of attachable letters, mechanically using rotating panel elements, or electronically using computer-controlled incandescent bulbs, light-emitting didoes (LED).

Channel Letter – A fabricated or formed three-dimensional letter that may accommodate a light source.

Cladding – A façade or decorative cover added to an existing sign pole or base, installed after the rest of the sign is built.

Clearance –The shortest distance between the lowest portion of sign or awning and the finished grade level.

Color Contrast – The difference between foreground lettering a sign and the background panel.

Conduit – A channel or pipe for protecting electric cables.

Contract Documents – Written specifications and design control drawings.

Contrast – The use of dissimilar or opposing elements, such as light and dark areas, warm and cool colors, or script and block typefaces.

Copy – The words or message displayed on a sign.

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Decal – An applique of words, graphics, or a combination of the town, screen-printed on the non-adhesive side of vinyl or film, then cut to a specific shape using a plotter or die.

Dimensional Letters – A cut-out, cast, fabricated, or molded material such as metal or plastic, in the shape of a letter, logo, or symbol.

Directional Sign – Signs designed to provide directional to pedestrian and vehicular traffic.

Directory Sign – A sign that identifies names of people, offices, or destinations at a specific building, facility or public venue.

Donor Recognition – A sign, plaque, or graphic display to recognize and honor the contributions or a person(s) or organization to an entity, project, or facility.

Double-Face Sign – A sign with two parallel but opposing faces.

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Edge Lighting – A technique used to illuminated (by internal refraction) carved, incised, or sandblasted lettering and images, usually glass or acrylic, by lighting the edge of the transparent material.

Egg Crate – A pattern piece of plastic installed below a light source in illuminating awnings.

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.

Embellishments – Any addition to a sign face that provides a three-dimensional effect. Cut-outs, push-through shapes/letters, neon strips, and clocks are all examples of embellishments.

Engraving – A 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 by computer-driven equipment.

Epoxy – A common form of adhesive (glue) the produces a very strong adhesive bond between substrates.

Exterior Illumination – Illumination that is provided from a source separate from the sign itself.

Extrusion – A part that’s created by forcing a raw material (usually metal or plastic) through a die to create the desired shape. Often used to refer to the extruded aluminum members that make up the frame.

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Fabricate – To manufacture a sign or major sign component from raw materials or parts.

Facade – The front or principal entrance of a building.

Face – The surface area of a sign on which the message is displayed.

Fascia-Mounted Sign – A sign that is mounted on a wall and whose face runs parallel to the wall.

Flexible-Face Material – Translucent woven vinyl cloth that is stretched across a frame.

Fluorescent Lamp/Tube – An electric-discharge lighting system, utilizing glass tubing and a hot tungsten cathode.

Font – A set of letters, numerals, and shapes that confirm to a specific set of design criteria.

Footing – The projecting base of a sign pole or pylon, including the portion that is buried in the ground. The footing bears all the weight of the sign, keeping it straight and true while anchoring it against overturning movement.

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

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Galvanizing – The process which steel or icon is protected by a zinc coating or plating, achieved by hot-dipping the metal into molten zinc or by electrolysis.

Gold Leaf – Gold manufactured into leaves. Gold leaf comes in a range of colors and karats with 14 to 16 karat for use on interior applications. The best gold leaf, 23 karat, is reserved for exterior work on vehicles, signs, and architectural applications.

Goose Neck – The curved support for a light fixture normally constructed out of steel conduit.

Grade – The contour of the ground surface. The placement of a sign is often measured as height above grade.

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

Ground Sign – A freestanding sign that is mounted on poles or braces, with no secondary support.

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Halo – A ring of light, the effect achieved by reverse channel letters, which appear to be ringed by light because the light source is reflecting on the background from which the letters are pinned out.

High Pressure Laminates – Papers impregnated with thermosetting melamine and phenolic resins bonded at high temperatures.

Housing – made from porcelain or Pyrex glass, a housing is mounted in the sign and provides the contact between the electrode and the lead-in-wire.

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Illuminated Sign – A sign which is lighted by either an internal electrical source or external lights.

Internally Illuminated – A sign that is lighted through the use of internal electric fixtures or lamp banks.

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J-Bolt – An angled rod, usually steel, embedded in a concrete footing, or anchor, and threaded at the exposed top end for attachment to a freestanding sign.

JPEG (joint photographic exports group) – A graphics files format designed for use with photo-graphs and other color bitmap files. The JPEG format used a mathematical technique to create files that are smaller than those created using other file formats, while maintaining a readable image.

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Kerning – The process of moving parts of letters farther apart or closer together to make them appear more evenly spaces.

Kiosk – Traditionally a small structures used for posting temporary signs and notices. A freestanding structure onto which messages and pertinent information can be housed and displayed.

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Lamination – A process by which different materials are lacquered and then bonded together.

Lamp Bank – The part of a message center that the public sees; a regular array of small lamps which displays messages by their on and off patterns.

LED (light emitted diode) – Consists of a small light source that emits colored light from a very small amount of electricity and is used for electronic “message” signs.

Letter Style – Serif, sans serif, slab serif, italic, light, roman, medium, semi-bold, bold, extra bold.

Letter Visibility Chart – An established set of numbers representing approximate visibility of letters over a range of distances.

Lexan® – A trade name of polycarbonate plastic sheeting.

Logo – An often stylized group of letters, words, symbols, or shapes used to represent a business or product.

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Marquee – A permanent canopy often of metal and glass projecting over an entrance.

Masonite – A brand of hard substrate made from wood chips that have been pressed into boards.

Matte Finish – Having a dull surface; not shiny or reflective.

Menu Board – A changeable point-of-purchase advertising display that allows the retailer to list products and prices.

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

Molding – A trim, commonly of wood or metal, available in many shapes and profiles, used as detail on many different sign types.

Monolith – A body of stone, plain or reinforced concrete, cast or erected as a single integral mass or structure.

Monument Sign – A freestanding sign sitting directly on the ground or mounted on a low base.

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Negative Space – The background of a sign. The area around and within the art and copy.

Neon Tubing – Glass tubing filled with various gases and charged with electricity creating an illuminated tubular sign or decorative element.

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Off-Premise Sign – A sign that is not located on the building or property of the business it advertises. The most common example of an off-premise sign is a billboard.

Opaque – Not clear or translucent; not allowing light to show through.

Open Channel Letter – A channel letter with returns that project forward perpendicularly from face of letter, and in which the neon tubing is visible.

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Patina – A finish applied (or achieved by age) to metal surfaces (especially copper, brasses, and bronze).

Permit – A license granted by the appropriate authorities to allow signs to be erected.

Photopolymer – a specialized plastic with photosensitive coating which is masked and photoetched to create tactile graphics. Used primarily for A.D.A signage requiring tactile copy and Braille.

Pictogram – A pictorial representation or graphic image.

Pigment – A compound used to color other materials, such as paints and inks.

Pole Sign – A freestanding sign, usually double-faced, mounted on a pole or other fabricated member without any type of secondary support.

Polycarbonate – A specific thermosetting resin characterized by its durability, flexibility, machinery, and endurance under UV exposure.

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

Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) – A specific thermoset plastic which is weather and chemical resistant, available extruded into many forms or casts as sheets in a variety of colors and thicknesses.

Post and Panel Sign – A sign panel with one or more posts.

Projecting Sign – A sign that is attached to a building but extends beyond the building structure.

Push-Through – 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 different color and/or material than the rest of the sign. Typically used with an opaque cabinet and internal lighting. “Push-thru letters” are most often translucent acrylic letters that are pushed through a sign face panel to be flush or over-flush with the front surface of the sign face.

Pylon Sign – A freestanding sign with a visible support structure, which may or may not have a pole cover.

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

Regulatory Sign – Signs installed by various government bodies to inform the public of traffic laws and regulations.

Resolution – In digital images, the number of pixels shown on a screen; the higher the number of pixels in a given space (i.e., the greater the density of pixels), the more precise the pictured image.

Retainer – The projecting rim around the sign face that holds it in place.

Return – The sides of a channel letter.

Reveal – The indented detail on a sign.

Reverse Channel Letter – A channel letter that has a face and sides but no back, and is pinned out from a background surface. When the neon tube inside the letter is illuminated, it produces a halo effect around the letter.

Revolving Sign – A sign that has the ability to turn 360 degrees because of the presence of an electric motor to drive its movable parts. All or a portion of the sign may revolve at a steady or variable speed.

Roof Sign – A sign structure that is erected on or above a roof; of that is installed directly on a roof’s structure.

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Sandblasting – A method for decorating glass or wood. A rubberized stencil of the artwork is either hand or computer cut and applied to the substrate, which is then sprayed with a pressurized stream of sand or synthetic particles to texture the unprotected area. Once the desired depth has been achieved on the item being blasted, the stencil is removed, and if on wood, the surface may be painted.

Sans Serif – Any typeface that lacks serifs. In more sans serif fonts, there is little differentiation between the width of stokes within the letter. Helvetic and Futura are familiar sans serif fonts.

Second-Surface – Refers to a sign made of clear substrate, such as acrylic, where the art is applied in reverse on what can be an interior face of the sign, providing extra protection from the environment.

Serif – A small ine or embellishment finishing off the strokes of letters in some fonts. Well-known serif fonts include: Souvenir, Times Roman, and Garamond.

Service Cover – In an electrical sign cabinet, a panel that allows ready access to the bulbs or lamps and the electrical connections for their replacement and maintenance.

Set Back – In a sign or development code, the distance between the primary face of the sign and the property line or right of way. The distance is measured in a straight line from the base/bottom of the sign.

Sheet Metal – Aluminum or steel in sheets or plates used as a sign substrate.

Sign – Any device, structure, display, or placard which is affixed to, placed on or in proximity to, or displayed from within a building to attract the attention of the public for the purpose of advertising, identifying, or communicating information about goods and services.

Signage – Interchangeable terms used to describe signs. Any group of posted commands, warnings, information, or directions.

Sign Cabinet – The enclosure of an electric sign, not including the components and mounting structure.

Sign Face – The front of the sign (in elevation), where the graphics are placed.

Sign Location Map – Usually a site plan or floor plan indicating where sign will be placed (called “sign locations”).

Sign Schedule / Sign Message Schedule – An inventory or list indicating the quantities of signs and messages for each individual sign. Typically used as a contract document for final text and sign wording, keyed to a sign location plan.

Sign Type – Defines the style or use of each unique sign component in a system. Sign types are individually determined for each sign project.

Sign-Foam® – A brand of specialized polymer foam cell products designed for three-dimensional signage appplications.

Single-Face – A sign consisting of one face, rather than back-to-back faces on a common frame or back-to-back messages on the same piece of material.

Snipe Sign – An overlay sign added to an existing sign layout, as an additional message to the main sign.

Spacer – Any device used in mounting letters or signs that separate them from the surface to which they are being installed.

Stencil – A thin sheet of material into which a design is cut. When a stencil is placed on another substrate and paint or ink is applied, the image represented by the cut-out portion of the stencil is printed on the substrate below it. Stencils range from metal to card stock to photo emulsions.

Structure – In the sign industry, a fabrication designed for and capable of supporting a sign. Can refer to internal or external skeleton of sign as well as support pole or mechanism.

Substrate – The material out of which the face is made. Wood, metal, sheeting, paper, and acrylic are some examples of sign substrate.

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Temporary Sign – Any sign that is not intended to be permanently installed.

Time and Temperature Display – Among the first electronic devices to change copy, these popular signs alternate between showing the time and temperature.

Trademark – Used by a business to distinguish itself and its products from competition. A trademark may include a name, symbol, word or combination of those. Protected by the federal government and considered to have financial value, a sign maker should only reproduce a trademark with the company’s permission and should discourage customers who seek to imitate well-known trademarks.

Transformer – In electrical signs, the mechanical or electrical component that transforms the voltage coming into the sign (the primary voltage) into a higher or lower voltage (the secondary voltage) necessary to run the sign.

Typeface – The design of a given set of letters, numbers, symbols, and punctuation, without reference to its size or width.

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Ultraviolet Light – Part of the spectrum ranging from 185 to 450 nanometers. 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 and paints. On the other hand, UV light is the prime cause of pigment failure in some paints and vinyl, especially red ones.

Underwriters Laboratory (UL) – A private organization that tests electrical devices and their construction and certifies their safety.

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Variance – A method by which a government body formally deviates from the terms of its sign or zoning code. Typically, obtaining a variance for a sign requires the applicant to show that it would not be contrary to the public interest or that a literal enforcement of the regulations would result in unnecessary and undue hardship (due to conditions peculiar to the property).

Vector – In computerization sign making, a line segment between two coordinates, on which a knife or tool path can be created for plotting or routing.

Vectorization – A function of the process of tracing around a bitmap image to create an outline comprised of line segments, or vectors.

VHB® – Tape produced by 3M®. Very High Bond joining systems are applied between mated parts to eliminate the need for mechanical fasteners or welded attachments.

Vinyl – Strong bond to a surface when pressure is applied. Many different integral colors are available with adhesives having different levels of aggressiveness (adhesion) for various applications from permanent to semi-permanent to temporary.

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Wall Mount – A single-face sign mounted on a wall.

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.

Waterjet-Cutting – Computerized high-pressure stream of water used to cut stone and metal up to 2″ thick.

Wayfinding – The process of using spatial and environmental information to find one’s way in the built environment. It can also be defined from the standpoint of the designer or owner and operator seeking to establish or improve the function of a particular environment. Wayfinding is not a separate or different activity from traditional signage design, but rather a broader, more inclusive way of assessing all the environmental issues which affect our ability to find our way.

Weed – The process of peeling extraneous vinyl or matrix from a plotter cut, leaving only the sections representing the final image. Pulling the extra material away in one quick stroke is known as “rip wedding”.

Weep Hole – A small opening or hole in the bottom of a letter or sign cabinet, placed at the lowest point to prevent water from accumulating in a unit.

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

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Zinc – A malleable metal that has unique gray appearance, somewhat like lead, and can be used raw in exterior applications.