Glossary of odd and specialized terminology you might want to know while talking with sign makers. Every trade has its own code – this is the Sign Maker to English translator.
Advertising Media: Internet, email, magazines, hand bills, newspaper, news letters, radio, signage and television. Media is the medium to carry the ad
Acrylic – A ridged plastic with great optical clarity. It also comes in tints or colors for channel letters. It is generally available in thicknesses of 1/8", 3/16", and 1/4". P-99 is a Specialty version available for non-glare. Used for backlit signs, dimensional letters, and layered signs.
Aesthetics - This deals with the form, design, and/or quality of construction of a particular sign. It is highly subjective and people argue about this constantly. What is aesthetically pleasing to one person, is rarely to another. It helps to have a drink before debating aesthetics
Amortization – legal term used to describe a phase out period for a sign. This was a term used in the 1950-1970s to phase out billboards along highways. (Accountants are mystified with this usage)
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.
Banner- Used for temporary ads like a grad opening, an event, an open house, an announcement, a race. These are normally on a canvas like material. Recently a vertical cloth banner is common at car washes, retail stores and real estate sales 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.
Cabinet Sign- These are common in parks and other areas. These have a door, some depth, and can be changed. They are a type of display box.
Canvas – This is a heavy cloth used for digital reprints of art, printed on canvas or outdoor tents, etc. This is generally not the canvas most people this about. It normally has a coating to prevent ink absorbtion and bleeding.
Calendar Vinyl Film – This is a material we print on. It is light, durable, and normally white. It is a plastic sheet formed through a melting and pressing process. Generally, it is not biodegradable, but a few are, and generally it has a 2-5 year life. It is normally seen in flat signs used indoors. It can be laminated, but often is not. Calendared vinyl has historically referred to as Intermediate Vinyl. Its strong suits can be categorized as follows:
* Applications that are generally shorter-term than cast films, ranging from 6 months to 5 years longevity.
* Surfaces that are mostly flat, or contain very moderate curves, such as a windshield on an automobile, or the door of a car. * Mounting to flat boards of any class (plastic, paper, etc.).
* Applications where economical media cost is an important consideration. See Cast Film
Cast Vinyl Film – This is a material we print on. It is light, durable, and normally white. It is a plastic sheet formed through a casting and drying process. Generally, it is not biodegradable, but a few are, and generally it has a 5-8 year life. It is normally seen outside in a laminated form. It is used for signs, and vehicle wraps. Cast vinyl products are generally considered the ‘Premium’ class products, designed for:
* Applications that call for the longest possible exterior longevity; today, this would be in the neighborhood of 10 years (this is for the vinyl only).
* Vehicle wrap applications.
* Window lettering and identification.
* Boat, snowmobile, jet-skis.
* Any other application where extreme conformability or reposition ability is important. See Calendar Film
Channel Letters – 3 dimensional letters that often look like a box with a translucent face. This is normally lighted by Neon, or more modern – LEDs. They are normally Aluminum
CMYK – This is a color coding system representing Cyan-Magenta-Yellow-Black. It is always a device-dependent color model. It’s gamut is specific to a printer. CMYK is the standard color model for full-color Ink Jet printing. It is also known as four-color printing. Color matching or color mapping CMYK to RGB is required to get prints that match what appears on a monitor, scanner or camera
Conforming Sign - A sign that is legally installed in accordance with federal, state, and local laws and ordinances.
Contrast - The difference or degree of difference between things having similar or comparable natures, such as light and dark areas, colors, or typefaces.
Copy - The words or message displayed on a sign.
Copy Area - Areas that enclose the actual copy on a sign.
Custom Sign - A sign designed, manufactured and installed to meet the requirements of a specific location.
Dimensional Letter or Dimensional – These are letters and logos cut from a thick material like foam, wood, metal, Aluminum. They are common in lobbies and Monuments, that is, signs in front of buildings and businesses. Address numbers on houses are often dimensional letters.
Directional Sign - Signs designed to provide direction to pedestrian and vehicular traffic.
Dye-sublimation printing - a printing process using heat to transfer dye onto media materials like as a plastic card, paper, or fabric. The dye transitions between the solid and gas states without going through a liquid stage. This makes the dye fuse to the media (stain it) and resists washing out or fading. It is used for flags and banners used outdoors.
Double-Faced Sign - A sign with two parallel opposing (back-to-back) faces.
Electric message center – a programmable, LED, LCD or lighted screen sign. This also covers the old flipper systems seem in airports during the 1970’s and 1980’s. Variable Message Signs and generally non-electric static signs where a person changes the letters
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.
Foam Boards – Used in Dimensional Signs and as a backing for cut letters or digital prints. The material has a polystyrene skin on both sides with an expanded polystyrene core. Widely used include signs, POP displays, and trade show booths. It is mostly used inside, but can be a good short term outdoor sign. It is a poor long term outdoor material
Face - The surface area on a sign where advertising copy is displayed.
Fascia Sign - A building mounted sign.
Font - A set of letters, numerals, and shapes, which conform to a specific set of design criteria.
Front Lighted Letter - An illuminated channel letter with translucent face.
Gamut - A color reproduction term. Also called a color gamut. It is a range of colors seen or used by a device or the human eye. For example a printer color range can be limited to black and white, or a range of colors. The human sys generally has the widest range of color perception, newspaper printing the narrowest, monitors and printers generally fall in between. Another use refers to the entire color set with a print or display test pattern.
Internally Illuminated Sign - A sign that is illuminated by a light source that is contained inside the sign.
LAB Color Gamut is a coding system for all visible color. In other words, a device independent color gamut. It is device independent and used as a way to communicate and calibrate different colors abilities between cameras, scanners, monitors and printers. The LAB color model is a three axis color system: The first axis is “L” for Lightness, axis “A” represents cyan to magenta/red, axis B represents blue to yellow. Laminates – Two or more sheets of material pressed and bonded together. This is the material to use when the face you want is not reasonable – like gold leaf, carbon fiber, shade shifter, pearlescent. It is common in Dimensional Signs
Legibility - The characteristics of letters, numbers, graphics, or symbols that make it possible to differentiate one from the other. Generally refers to readability.
Logo - A design that represents an identity – generally a company or a product. Logos “brand” the company or product and are easier for people to view, understand and identify with
Marquee - 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.
Media – This is what is printed on. It is commonly vinyl, PVC, Wood, Paper, Aluminum or Polyester
Mobile Sign -A portable sign mounted on a trailer.
Monument Sign - A ground sign with low overall height.
Metal Mica – Used in Dimensional Signs - An anodized metal material up to .040 inches to achieve Chrome, Mirror, Gold Mirror, Brushed Chrome, Brushed Gold, and most standard colors . This material can be cut for individual letters or laminated to any of the other material to produce a layered effect.
Neon Sign - A sign manufactured utilizing neon tubing, This is a dying art as LEDs reduce demand
Neon Tubing - Electric discharge, cold cathode tubing manufactured into shapes that form letters, parts of letters, skeleton tubing, outline lighting, and other decorative elements or art forms, in various colors and diameters and filled with inert gases.
Off-Premise Sign – Any sign advertising something not purchasable on the land under it. This is important because the local laws divide on premise and off-premise advertising. Generally on-premise is much less restrictive
Open Channel Letter- A 3-D letter with no face, often neon
Pantone Colors - Pantone is a company in New Jersey that created a set of standard colors in 1956. These are paint colors and represent inks. The range is larger than the capability of printers, cameras and monitors to reproduce. Pantone Colors come in pages or wheels and are used as comparison standards to "color match" specific colors. It is widely used by graphic designers, printers and others.
Pantone Gamut – A set of absolute colors generally converted into relative systems (like RGB and CMYK) for reproduction
PVC – Used both for dimensional letters, layered signs. It is a rigid plastic. It normally has a matte finish. It comes in different thicknesses (1/8", 1/4", 1/2", and 3/4"). PVC can be sawed, drilled, bent and fabricated using ordinary (plastic) tools and fasteners. PVC is great for dimensional letters, layered signs, and printed signs. Great for outdoor use
Pan Channel Letter- A 3-D letter normally with metal sides, a face allowing light to come through and a base for LED, Florescent or Neon illumination.
Pan Face- A plastic sign face molded into a three dimensional shape. Also called molded face, molded and embossed face, molded and debossed face.
Permanent Sign- A sign designed to survive outside for a longer period of time. This resists the elements like wind, wet and sun. The inks and materials used are specific to these challenges. Many are laminated with clear protective films
Point-of-Purchase Sign AKA POP – See below
POP (Point of Purchase)- Sign at registers designed for impulse sales
Post and Panel Sign- Common method used for realtor signs on commercial property
Push-Through- This is a form on inlayed letter and logo where the feature (letter) is pushed through a sheet of material.
Pylon Sign- A sign on a pole – the pole may be covered or not
Raceway- An electrical box, pipe or channel where a sign is mounted and/or electric is routed.
RGB – refers to a numeric representation of 3 colors Red Green Blue with each color having 256 possible settings. These 3 colors can be combined to product most other colors. Conversely, these 3 colors can be read to create a numeric sequence of RGB triplets or codes. Most monitors, cameras, scanners and CCD devices use some form of this system. Printers generally do not use RGB. Printers generally use a system called CMYK. Also see RGB Adobe 1998.
RGB 98 AKA RDB Adobe 1998 – refers to Red Green Blue standard used by the Adobe products. This is a color range (a color gamut) larger than standard RGB coding schemes.
RGB Color Gamut – The range of possible colors available in a device. This is commonly used as a color calibration or communication system. It is device specific. Rendering Intents are Rules or methods by which to convert color from one color space to another. This converts sRGB, RGB 98, RGB into CMYK for driving printers. There are 4 rendering intent methods
• Absolute Colorimetric– this system prints exactly what is called for. The problem is it exceeds the abilities of the printer.
• Relative Colorimetric – this system prints what is possible and changes colors that are not possible into the closed possible match. The problem with this can be a loss of color contrast
• Perceptual– this system changes all colors to maintain the contrast between them. The problem with this can be a shift in colors
• Saturation – this remaps colors to translate a range of color codes into the printer. The problem with this is it can shift into unnatural colors and look odd
Release Liner – A term used for the slick paper on the back on vinyl. This is peeled away and trashed, exposing the adhesive on the back of the media (normally vinyl)
Return- The sides of a channel letter, these are normally Aluminum today.
Reveal- An indented detail on a sign.
Reverse Channel Letter- A fabricated dimensional letter with opaque face and side walls.
sRGB is a Microsoft Windows standard and default Red Green Blue (RGB) set of colors for monitors and other devices
Sidewalk/Sandwich Sign- (AKA A-frame 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.
Signage- A system of signs.
Signature Building- Architectural design of a building or structure that reinforces signage. McDonalds is often sited because the design of the building is a form of sign
Snipe – A stipe that announces something on the edge of a sign (“Coming soon, or dates or specials)
Street Furniture- This can be any furniture, but is normally a bench with an advertisement on the back
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. Generally temporary signs are not constructed to resist sunlight, temperatures or other environmental attack. Permanent signs and temporary sign construction is very different
Time and Temperature Display- This was a classic group of signs used largely by banks. It was innovative at the time and is now largely obsolete
Time, Place and Manner Regulations- These 3 terms are generally used in zoning, regulations and other legal restrictions. The content of a message is generally protected speech, but the way (time, place manner) can be controlled. SO 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.
Tourist Oriented Directional Signs (TODs) – This is a Federal government program in remote areas to tell travelers about services (like gas, food and lodging). It is not considered advertising
Trademark: (AKA Service Mark) A Trademark can be name, symbol, word or combination registered with the government. Trademarking is a protected legal right. It is displayed with a circled "R" or "Reg. T.M.". Using another’s Trademark can cause complaints followed by legal action, so it is important you own what you use.
Transformer- LED, Neon and Florescent lights use voltages that require conversion (transformers). Transformers need special consideration for placement and electrical codes
Transit Advertising – an older term for advertising on cars, trucks, trains etc. Today, these are normally called vehicle wraps
UL Underwriters Laboratories, Inc., a Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratory.
Variable Message Sign- Any sign that can change, but generally used for manual changes. Gas prices, time and temperature signs, boards. There is another sub category of these usually called an Electric message center – a programmable, LED or lighted screen sign
Variance - an exception to the zoning regulations. This normally involves size, location or manor. Because of our right of free speech it does not involve content.
Visible Color Gamut – The entire range of what humans perceive to be color. Generally used as the largest set of available colors. RGB, CMYK and other Gamuts are all subsets of this. This range is defined in a standard system called the LAB Color Gamut
Vehicle Wrap (AKA Car wrap, Van Wrap or Truck Wrap) – This is like a billboard ad, but applied directly to the vehicle. It is effective advertising, but it is also: a way to protect the vehicle, lighter than paint (a real plus for race cars).
Wayfinding – Helps a person find his way. A directional sign. This can be to find a doctor on a directory board, or a map in a mall or arrows stuck to the floor. Any sign that shows the way
Window Sign- Obviously a sign in a window, but these can be on the outside with an adhesive back, inside with an adhesive front. These are normally painted on or vinyl.