sign terminology

We realize that the sign industry uses a lot of words and terms that may not be familiar to the general public. So we put together a little guide of sign terminology to help guide you.


Acrylic is a plastic that is available in a rainbow of colors and sizes. It has been used for many applications over the years, but in the signage industry it is commonly used for faces or the back of channel letters. It comes in sheets of different sizes with different thicknesses, and is also available in clear and opaque.

ada sign

An ADA sign is one that conforms with the Americans with Disabilities Act. These signs follow a strict regulation in regards to tactile letters, mounting height, and material. You will commonly see ADA bathroom signage and wayfinding signage in most public spaces. ADA signs are important because they allow those with disabilities to navigate spaces easier.


While you may know what aluminum is - a typically silver or whiteish metal that has many different applications - it is a very popular material in the signage industry. It is used for faces, returns, and many other essential components of signage, both interior and exterior.


An awning is a covering that extends from the front of a building, much like a canopy. Many companies print their logo and company name on an awning in lieu or in compliment of a sign. Awnings can be made of acrylic, vinyl, cotton, polyester, and more.


A typical banner is a long piece of cloth or vinyl that usually has a logo, message, company name, and more information, depending on the use of the banner. Banners are an ancient art that have been and are used for events, gatherings, parties, and more!

blade sign

A blade sign is one that juts out of the side of a building much like a blade. It is a double faced sign and projects over the sidewalk. This is a great business identifier and makes sure that people will notice your business as they walk or drive by.


Braille is a system of raised dots that blind folks or people with difficulty seeing can use to read with their fingers. Braille is an important component to ADA signage and an integral part of making signage accessible to all.


Cabinets, also called "box" signs, look just how they sound. Most of the time, they are attached to a building, but they can also be freestanding signs. Cabinets can be both illuminated and non-illuminated, although most customers choose to light them up. They are a staple sign type that work great as a business identifier and are known to be long-lasting.


A directory is a sign that lays out the rooms/offices in a building and where to find them. These are found in most public and even private buildings.

channel letter

Channel letters are exterior letters commonly made from aluminum, stainless steel, acrylic, and other materials. They are custom made, and typically stand alone without a sign panel. The most common application for channel letters is on buildings.

backlit channel letters

When light is projected against the back of a letter with an open back (ie: hollow). The light is focused on a space behind any given letter, which gives it a silhoutte. This is a common and popular lighting choice for channel letters. These are also commonly called reverse channel letters or halo lit channel letters.


A ballast controls and balances the light output of a sign. Ballasts are used for many other lighting fixtures and applications other than signage, but it is an important component to an electrical sign. The ballast ensures that the sign stays lit.

brushed finish

A brushed finish is typically used on aluminum or stainless steel signage. The "brushed" look is achieved by using a grit belt and then softening it. The outcome is a beautiful, soft looking metal.

dimensional letters

Dimensional letters are typically made of metal or acrylic, and much like channel letters, they are 3D lettering. The key difference is that dimensional letters are typically non-illuminated, and featured on signage such as monuments and sign panels.

double-faced sign

A double faced sign is a sign that has two sides, or faces, instead of just one. These can be seen on blade signs and freestanding signs, as well as others.

electric sign

An electric sign is any sign that has an electrical component for lighting, in other words, an illuminated sign.


A sign face is similar to a human face, in that it is the outward facing part of the sign. When looking at channel letters on the building in front of you, the face is the front facing portion of those letters. This is a term commonly tossed around in the signage industry.

freestanding sign

A freestanding sign is one that stands freely - just as the name suggests. All jokes aside, it is a sign that is not mounted on a building or another surface, instead it is anchored into the ground.

front lit letters

Front lit letters are letters that have lights within the letters themselves. This type of illumination for channel letters is one of the most commonly used and very popular with clients.

full service sign company

It means that the sign company handles everything. We're talking permitting, engineering, design, consultation, fabrication, installation, removal, and service. It is a one stop shop for anything and everything you need in your signage provider. (hint - that's us!)


A logo is a symbol or design that represents your brand or company. It is an essential component to building your brand. Good signage includes a logo because it is a great way to build a coherent and widely known brand.


A marquee sign is one that is usually used at theaters, hotels, and the like. It also includes the movies being played, artists coming to play, and more depending on the business. It is a classic sign type, while not used as much in new construction, it is a time-honored choice.

neon sign

While neon signage is now almost completely "extinct" in the signage world, it is an important part of our beginnings. Back in the day, we did lots of neon signs. Neon signage is illuminated signage that were lit by gas tubes full of neon or other gases. Neon signage has a long lifetime, and many neon signs are now being preserved for their historical value.


A plaque is a commemorative sign, typically made of aluminum, steel, or bronze, that has engraved words and letters. Many plaques are used for new construction; and they typically name important people to the construction of that building, such as companies, donors, and the like.

post and panel sign

A post and panel sign is exactly what it sounds like. It is made up of a sign panel with two posts on each side. It is a simple yet great choice for signage, no matter the use.


PVC stands for polyvinyl chloride, which is basically a synthetic plastic. One of the most common uses for PVC signage is PVC piping in parking garages. PVC also comes in flexible and rigid forms.


A raceway is a mounting structure that keeps all the electrical components of a sign inside, so that the channel letters can go on top of it. It is a rectangular, long shape, hence the name "raceway".


A return is the depth of the side of a channel letter. This is a term frequently used in signage drawings to indicate how far the sign will extend over the public way.

regulatory sign

A regulatory sign is one that is used to enforce a certain rule, law, or safety code. Regulatory signage is essential to the functioning of buildings and society at large. Examples are traffic signs, parking lot signs, and restricted entry signs.

routed face

A sign with a routed face is usually one made of aluminum in which the letters and symbols are "routed" out by a CNC routing machine, to reveal the lighting shining through the sign panel. This style is stunning and something we are experts are in.

sandblasted sign

Sandblasted signs are sign panels that use a stencil and then are sandblasted to create a very unique, recessed look to the lettering on your signage. The final step is painting and finishing the sign, and you're good to go!

satin finish

A satin finish is a luster finish that is popular for aluminum or steel letters and signs.


Standoffs are spacers that are used to separate parts during the installation of a sign. While they are a tiny component, they are an important one.

stud mount

Stud mounted signs have rods going out the back of them, so during installation, holes are drilled in the installation surface, and then secured. This gives them the appearance of "floating".


A transformer transfers energy from one circuit to another. Transformers are commonly used in a wide variety of electrical applications, and they are integral to electrical signage.


UL stands for Underwriter Laboratories. They are an organization that tests the safety and quality of many things, including electrical signage. Each electrical sign we manufacture goes through a process to pass a UL test and in order to do so, we must show UL that our electrical signage is safe and great quality. We take pride in our ability to follow their stringent guidelines in order to make the best signage available to all of our customers.


Vinyl is a synthetic plastic polymer and one of the most widely and commonly used materials in our industry. We apply vinyl to sign faces, as well as apply it directly to surfaces. It is a very strong, dependable material, and it is flame resistant as well.


Wayfinding signs are the ones you follow in a parking lot or building to find a particular office or room. These are used in all sorts of industries, such as healthcare, industrial, and more!

wall sign

Surprise, surprise - a wall sign is sign... mounted to a wall.

vehicle wrap

A vehicle wrap is a large vinyl, graphic wrap that encompasses a vehicle. These are great advertisements for your company, as your company vehicles most likely travel all around. It is a great addition to the branding of your company.

pylon sign

A pylon sign, also called a "pole sign", is a large exterior sign that typically is anchored into the ground using one or two poles. It is one of the largest sign types and is commonly used in shopping centers and areas with a large concentration of retail businesses.


Polycarbonate is a group of thermoplastic polymers. It is used in a wide variety of applications other than signage, but it is used in this industry because it is an extremely strong and long-lasting material.

message center

A message center sign is one that can display words, messages, images, symbols, and sometimes more depending on the model and complexity. Message centers are great additions to monument signs, and are often used for schools, music/sports venues, and more!

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