Terminology / Glossary

A very rigid, and long lasting, but not extremely break resistant translucent thermoplastic, unlike Lexan.

Form, design, and/or quality of construction of a particular sign, building, site or structure, that presents a statement concerning the level of beauty or artistic value.

In accounting terms, this refers to the method in which an intangible asset is depreciated over a specified period of time.  In terms relevant to signs 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.

Animated Sign:
A sign incorporating an action, motion, light or color changes by means of an electrical or mechanical means.

Annual Average Daily Traffic (Annual ADT):
Measurement representing the total number of vehicles passing a given location each day. Typically – these counts are performed by the Department of Transportation in your local municipality.

Awning Sign:
A building mounted sign that’s functionality includes a shelter.

Back-lighted Letter:
An illuminated reverse channel letter (open or translucent/transparent back) so light from the letter is directed against the surface behind the letter producing a halo lighting effect around the letter

An electrical device, often a resistor, that maintains the current a circuit required to operate fluorescent lamps.

A sign composed of lightweight material that may be used to announce open houses and grand openings, make special announcements, or communicate events.

Added value by introduction of intangible items such as words, graphics or symbols that are associated with the products or services offered by a business. Developing branding of a Company may include the presentation of signs and architecture to create a unique awareness and memory by the potential customer of the products or services offered at that site.

Building Code:
Province and/or local regulations governing public health, welfare and safety of construction and maintenance.

Building Fascia:
The portion of any elevation of a building extending vertically from the grade to the top of the 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 in some manner affixed to or attached to a building.

A sign enclosure consisting of the frame and face(s), which does not include the internal components, or support structures.

Changeable Copy:
Components (copy/letters) of the sign that can be changed out.

Channel Letter:
Fabricated or formed three-dimensional letter that may accommodate a light source. Channel letter bending is typically done using one of two methods—automated bending and hand bending. It is important to note that only the return of a channel letter is bent, and the letter return is what gives a channel letter its recognizable shape. Both the channel letter face and the back are either routed by automated equipment or cut with hand tools. Once cut, they are then affixed to the bent letter return.

Cold Cathode:
Neon which uses an electrode with a large metal mass to emit electrons. Neon tubing is large.  Also a generic term employed to specify custom interior lighting produced through the use of larger diameter cold cathode tubing.

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

The contrasting characteristics of the sign that enable an observer to differentiate the sign from its surrounding environment.

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

The words or message displayed on a sign.

Copy Area:
Areas that enclose the actual copy on a sign.

Corrugated Background:
A background that raises and lowers on regular intervals.

Custom Sign:
A uniquely designed sign that is manufactured and installed to meet the requirements of a specific location.

Daily Effective Circulation (DEC):
The average number of daily potential exposures to a display or group of signs determined by counting only those vehicles traveling toward the face of the sign, and then multiplying that number by the average number of people per car during the hours the sign is visible. Pedestrian and mass transit circulations are not included. This is the basic measure in establishing cost per thousand exposures on signs. The basic traffic numbers can usually be obtained from your Province Department of Transportation.

Dimensional Letter:
A 3D letter, logo or symbol, either cut out, cast, molded or fabricated in material such as metal or plastic to create demension.

Directional Sign:
Provide  direction to pedestrians and vehicular traffic.

Directory Sign:
A sign that identifies the names and locations of tenants in a multi-tenant building (such as a mall) or in a development made up of a group of buildings (ie: condominiums).

Discrete or push-through LEDs:
a cluster of red, green and blue LEDs forming a single pixel, discrete LEDs have been used in most outdoor displays installed over the past 10-15 years.

Double-Faced Sign:
A sign with two opposing faces.

Electric Sign:
Any sign containing or using electrical wiring.

Electronic Message Center:
A sign that utilizes computer-generated messages or some other electronic means of changing copy or images. These signs include displays using LEDs.

To raise above the background.

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.

The process in which material is and then pushed thru a die to make a shape

Face (The Letter Face):
The letter face is upper-most part of the letter which is meant to be seen. It may be made of a translucent white or colored acrylic material that allows internal illumination through, or, in the case of halo channel letters, it may be opaque.

Fascia Sign:
A building mounted sign.

Flat Cutout Letter:
A dimensional letter cut from sheet or plate stock – usually aluminum or plastic.

Fluorescent Lamp or Tube:
Electric-discharge lighting utilizing glass tubing manufactured to standard lengths.

A set of letters, numerals, and shapes, which conform to a specific set of design criteria and are quite often regulated by licensing.

To take shape. See vacuum formed.

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

Front Lit Letter:
An illuminated channel letter with translucent face.

A Reinforcing plate used in a sign. A plate (very often in the shape of a triangle) welded to a pole may have gussets welded to both to insure that the plate can’t break away from the pole.

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 Sign:
A sign that is illuminated by a light source that is contained inside the sign.

International Sign Association.

Light Emitting Diode.

The characteristics of letters, numbers, graphics, or symbols that make it possible to easily differentiate one from the other.

Letter Back:
The letter back, as the name implies, is the back of the letter. The return and illumination modules are attached to the letter back.

General Electrics brand name for their Polycarbonate plastic. UV protected. Very durable

A design that represents goods, identity or service in the form of an image or item.

Lux: A measurement of the amount of light transmitted to a one-square-meter of surface.

Monument Sign:
A low level free standing sign. Normally all evidence of poles are covered or hidden.

Download Colour Chart PDF

unit of measurement used to measure how much light an EMC emits. a unit of luminous intensity equal to one candela per square meter

Off-Premise Sign:
Any sign that is not tied/related 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.

Does not allow any light to transmit thru. The opposite of translucent.

Open Channel Letter:
A dimensional letter that has no face and if illuminated, the light source is visible. A clear face for physical protection of internal components may be used.

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 face.

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 switch that automatically turns on when the environment is dark and off when there is daylight.

the distance between pixels. For instance, a 16mm pitch means that the centre-to-centre distance between each pixel is 16mm. The tighter the pitch the better the resolution-i.e. a 10mm pitch will display crisper images than a 16mm.

Pixel or point:
a single light source or element made up of at least one each of red, green and blue LEDs which are used to create trillions of colors.

Rohm & Haas brand name for their acrylic plastic sheet.

Point-of-Purchase Sign:
Signs 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. Sometimes known as cladding.

The most break resistant and high impact type of plastic, but susceptible to yellowing and dulling with age. Not as rigid as acrylics.

POP (Point of Purchase):
signs that advertises a product at it’s point of purchase.

Portable Sign:
A sign not permanently attached to the ground or building, with devices such as power-cord for connection to an electrical source, and readily removable using ordinary hand tools.

Post and Panel Sign:
An unlighted sign fabricated by using one or more visible posts to support the sign body.

Projecting Sign:
A building mounted sign with the faces of the sign perpendicular to the building fascia plane.

A shape cut out of a material that is as thick or thicker than the sign face material, and mounted on the inside of the sign face so that the backing material’s thickness extends flush with or through and beyond the front plane of the sign face.  (usually done for illumination and frequently the shapes are raised above the other surfaces)

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

An electrical enclosure that doubles as a mounting structure for the sign.

The quality that enables the observer to correctly and easily read the message. In transportation engineering, this word is being replaced by the word “conspicuity”.

Regulatory Sign:
A sign having the primary purpose of conveying information concerning rules, ordinances or laws.

The framing retainer mounted around the perimeter of a sign face, and attached to the sign cabinet structure.

The sides of a channel letter. Channel letters are manufactured from several components, and one of the primary parts is the return. The return is the side of a channel letter, and it typically ranges in depth from 3″ to 8″, with 5″ being the most common return depth. This is the component of a channel letter that is bent. Returns begin as simply a piece of aluminum coil.

An indented detail on a sign.

Reverse Channel Letter:
A fabricated dimensional letter with opaque face and side walls usually illuminated to create a halo effect on the adjacent surface.

Roof Sign:
A building mounted sign erected on the roof of a building.

Sidewalk/Sandwich Sign:
A moveable sign not secured or attached to the ground or surface upon which it is located, but supported by its own frame and most often forming the cross-sectional shape of an A.

Any visual display with words or symbols designed to convey information or attract attention.

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

Single-Face Sign:
A sign with only one face plane.

The outer surface of an angle iron steel sign frame, normally a aluminum sheet, formed to fit (can be referred to as cladding)

SMDs-Surface Mount Devices:
one red, one blue and one green led in a single package to form a pixel, were mostly used in indoor displays but newer technology means they are now available for some outdoor applications too.

Stationary Sign:
A sign with a power-cord for attachment to a source of electrical power that is not readily moveable or portable.

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.

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.

Time and Temperature Display:
An electronic message sign which displays current time and temperature in a stationary or alternating manner. Some also display simple messages.

A name, symbol, word or combination of those, used by a business to distinguish itself and its products from the competition. These are 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.

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.

To allow light to transmit thru.

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

UL or ETL listed:
Underwriters Laboratory, A private Listing company that inspects Electrical Devices and their construction. Many cities require signs to be listed (inspected and approved by UL.).

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

Ultraviolet light from the sun. It affects acrylic cast-in colors and causes yellowing of polycarbonate plastics.

UV Inhibitors:
A material added to GE Lexan (above), and applied in Solargard and Optigard to reduce the effects of Ultraviolet rays from the sun

Plastic is heated until pliable and then placed over a die, vacuum is applied. When cooled the plastic holds the shape of the die.

An administrative procedure by which one may obtain an exception to zoning rules such as height, setback and type of use.

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

Wall Sign:
A building mounted sign.

Way finding:
Enabling a person to find his or her way to a given destination thru the use of effective signs usually found in public buildings such as malls or hospitals.

Window Sign:
A sign that is displayed in a window.

A term for determining the design strength of a sign. Standard wind load is 45 PSF (pounds pr square foot) in Northern Alberta, which can generally withstand winds up to 120 MPH