Outdoor signage comes in all shapes and formats so choosing one can become a daunting task. To help you better communicate with your signage company, we’ve grouped and briefly explained the main types of outdoor signage below.
A-boards and pavement signs are very inexpensive outdoor signage solutions. They are great to direct customers to your business premises as they are noticeable from the street and very customisable. The only downside is that they are on the floor, and usually not large or tall enough for long distance.
Monolith signs (also called pylons or totems) are generally large-scale structures intended to be seen from a distance. Therefore, they are effective to advertise your business before the customer even reaches your building. Monolith signs can advertise one business or many and are mostly used for site identification, directions, and information. For example, they appear at many shopping centres to list the stores in the complex, and they can be illuminated to attract the attention of people driving by. There are by-laws in place that may prohibit monolith signs, so always check before getting one.
Monument signs stand directly on the ground. This type of sign will often include a concrete or stone base structure supporting the sign cabinet—although bricks, wood, and even high-density foam can also be used. A monument sign is often the preferred signage type to mark the entrance to a building, a plot of land, a place of significance, an educational institution or a place of worship. Monument signs may include an electronic message centre for keeping the public informed about upcoming events.
A flat panel mounted between two poles is known as a post and panel sign. These freestanding markers are considered a type of monument sign—they are commonly used as identification signs for businesses, and they are equally effective serving as directional signage. Post and panel signs are designed to attract the attention of pedestrians or motorists from far away. Post and panel signs are often considered to be one of the more economical and durable signage choices for commercial use. Available in a wide variety of configurations and materials—including sign-foam, aluminium, PVC, and wood—they are used extensively by residential real estate businesses.
Reader boards and Electronic signs (also called Electronic Message Centres, or EMCs) consist of customisable signs that can communicate multiple messages without needing to print off a different sign. They are usually very expensive and require much maintenance.
Corporate Building Signage
Channel letters offer a three dimensional, modern finish and make a real statement. They are fabricated from aluminium or acrylic and are illuminated from within with either neon or low-voltage LEDs.
These signs are commonly used on building exteriors, mainly shopping centres and large commercial buildings. They offer high visibility as the letters are often twelve inches to several feet tall. There are four types of channel letters: front lit, halo/reverse lit (made by directing the light out of the back of the letters onto the building or carrier to give a halo effect), front and back-lit channel letters, open face lit channel letters.
Channel letters are generally more expensive than other signage options because they have to be handmade and need to be wired together. It can be challenging to hide the power packs out of sight—therefore the installation usually takes longer than other signage. Because each letter piece is custom made they can sometimes be difficult to install on uneven surfaces. If that’s the case, a carrier will need to be made as a backer which the letters will be installed on before being hung on the wall which can add to the overall cost of the sign.
Dimensional (or individual mounted) letters are the same as channel letters, but they are not illuminated from within. In fact, if you’re looking to light up your sign by night, you’ll need to consider an external lighting source. Dimensional letters are long-lasting and give a professional, polished, clean-cut appearance to commercial premises. Durable, yet more economical than channel letter signage, dimensional lettering can be made in varying depths and material such as metal, acrylic and PVC. This typology of signage is better suited where light-up signs are not allowed or for companies who want to maintain a more subtle and classic look. Similarly to channel letters, they can be mounted directly to a building or adhered to a carrier.
Outdoor business plaques can be wall or door-mounted and are available in almost every material—including brass, acrylic, aluminium, perspex, slate, granite, bronze or steel. Stone carved signs can add a unique touch and allow for hand engraving using gilded or enamel lettering for an extra high-end finish. Engraved signage makes an excellent choice for businesses, stores, offices, institutions and hotels—it is hard wearing, durable and looks beautifully timeless. It is also possible to create illuminated plaque signage with hidden backlighting or LEDs to give an attractive halo effect and ensure the signage stands out in the evenings.
Wall mounted signs represent a highly visible and popular type of outdoor business signage. Also known as fascia signs, they usually appear on the front of business premises on the horizontal band between the storefront and the second floor and can be illuminated from within, from behind, or from lights shining on the sign. From an aluminium panel to illuminated custom shaped letters sign—wall mounted signs offer infinite possibilities.
Shop front lettering and acrylic fascia signs are the preferred choices of many retail businesses because they offer a cost-effect external signage solution with minimal installation disruption and can be fully customised to suit brand requirements for any sector—including department stores, salons and hairdressers, hospitality, hotel and restaurant businesses.
Blade (or projecting) signs project out from the wall of a building. They can be mounted on a building facade, storefront pole or attached to a surface perpendicular to the normal flow of traffic. They help pedestrians find the entrance to a business from the pavement. They can be lit internally, externally, or not at all.
Wood carved signs are also an option for a more traditional or rustic look and feel. A wood substitute called high-density urethane can also be used, and it requires very little maintenance or cleaning.
Lightbox cabinets are an excellent choice of illuminated outdoor signs—they consist of an aluminium frame and plastic face, and are internally lit with fluorescent tube lamps. Lightboxes are economical yet offer a big impact.
Awnings are typically canvas over a frame and are a classy look for any business. They can enhance elegance and shelter incoming customers into restaurants, cafes, and hotels. Illuminated awnings are lit from underneath by fluorescent lamps. The light shines through the awning fabric, illuminating whatever text or graphics are on it and providing night time readability. These awning signs can be an effective signage choice for fast-food chains and stores open 24/7.
Vinyl lettering and decals
These types offer a flexible signage option because they can be installed on a variety of supports such as doors, windows, floors, walls, existing signs and vehicles.
Printed Banners and Flags
Banners are a great, affordable option for large format signage—they provide the impact of a billboard at a fraction of the cost and can be used outdoors or inside. They may be printed on vinyl, canvas or other fabrics and materials. Banners are easy to mount, have a wide reach and can be highly customised the perfect signage solution to promote events, including grand openings, fairs, special sales and promotions.
Billboards are ideal for places with a lot of vehicle or pedestrian traffic, such as highways or city streets. Digital billboards are lit internally, but otherwise, billboards are typically lit with external lights on the top or bottom of the sign structure.
Signage lighting options
There are several ways to add lighting to your sign, and some of them are incredibly classy. Based on the lighting option, outdoor signs can be classified as back-lit, illuminated and neon signs.
Back-lit signs are signs where the face is illuminated from behind. While a little bit expensive, back-lit signs can advertise day and night. They have spotlights and LED fitted behind the signage and can be used where lighted-up signs are not allowed.
Illuminated signs only use electricity at night. By day, they advertise traditionally. This typology includes channel letters, LED message boards, and lightbox cabinets.
Neon Signs are seeing a come back due to the popularity of retro style. Customised neon signs are very bright and will catch every eye on the street—think Las Vegas.
We found an excellent guide created by Westmount Signs & Printing which gives an overview of the main different signage options, highlighting the pros and cons of each type of outdoor sign—you can read the article on their website.
Another awesome resource is this fun. interactive infographic created by KC Sign. It showcases a comprehensive list of signage types for both interior and outdoor usage—click here to check it out. Also, here is a handy Glossary of Signage Terms.
Other reference sources
London’s Signage Company Goodwin&Goodwin