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Access Panel
A small door on the side or back of a sign cabinet, through which the sign may be serviced.

Sturdy plastic sheeting suitable for signage, in transparent or translucent grades. Acrylic sheeting comes in various thicknesses and colors. Plexiglas® and Acrylite® are well-known commercial brands of the material


Adobe Illustrator
A design and drawing software used in the sign industry.

AI File
Adobe Illustrator file. A type of computer file used in the sign industry.

Allowable Sign Area
According to a municipality’s Sign Code, this is the maximum area (width x height) that a free-standing or wall sign can be.

Rigid material made with corrugated plastic sandwiched between two sheets of aluminum.

Angle Iron
A length of steel or iron bent at a right angle along its long dimension, used as a sign support or structural framework.

Fabric or vinyl on a metal frame, typically covering the top of windows or doors. Awnings can be decorated with the name or address of the business.



Back Lit Sign
A sign which has an internally-illuminated background, such as a cabinet sign.

In the sign industry, a device used to provide and regulate the voltage or to stabilize the current in a circuit controlling fluorescent lamps.

A temporary sign substrate made of thin vinyl, usually with applied vinyl letters and graphics. Banners are typically grommetted around the perimeter and secured to a structure with ropes.

Base Plate
A rigid piece of steel on the base of a pole or projecting arm, welded into place, drilled with mounting holes and attached to a footing or building using anchor bolts.

Bid Package
Documents from a prospective customer that state for the contractor the requirements and conditions of the project under bid. These documents communicate such details as design intent, desired materials, installation criteria and other project specifics. They also include standardized bidding forms and bidding instructions. (Also called front end documents.)

A computer file containing an array of binary data (computer info) which takes the form of a photograph.

Blade Sign
A double sided sign which hangs perpendicular to a wall.

Block Letter
A type of letter or font where most of the letter parts are straight, or without “serifs”.




Cabinet Sign
A fabricated sign box, which contains a light source and a plastic or aluminum face with letters or graphics. A cabinet sign may mount to a wall or may be part of a monument or pylon sign.

Computer Aided Design, a generic term which refers to architectural or engineering software.

Another term for a sign box or sign cabinet.

Channel Letter
A fabricated three dimensional aluminum letter which may include a light source and a plastic face. Channel letters typically mount to a wall.

The amount of space from the ground (or finished floor) to the bottom of the sign. There is usually a minimum amount this has to be.

Clearance Bar
A horizontal bar which hangs down from the ceiling in a parking garage or drive thru and represents the maximum amount of clearance there is before your vehicle gets damaged. Also known as a “bang bar”.

A graphic design based software package sometimes used in the sign industry. SignArt utilizes this software.



Digitally Printed Vinyl or Face
A computer graphic can be printed directly onto vinyl or other substrate. The printed graphic usually consists of multiple colors or gradients, like a photograph.

Directional Sign
A small sign usually on a post in a parking lot, which directs traffic in a certain direction.

Directory Sign
An interior wall sign at the entrance or lobby of a multi-tenant building. Directories typically consist of individual strips of plastic or metal decorated with tenant names, room numbers, etc.

Double Faced Sign
A sign with two faces, back to back or 2 faces in one cabinet, readable from two directions.



Electronic Message Center
An LED illuminated sign, in varying sizes. EMCs can either be monochromatic or full color. Sign graphics usually change or scroll and can be controlled remotely from a host computer.

A strong bonding two part glue system.

EPS File
Encapsulated Post Script file. A computer document intended to be usable in a graphics file format. EPS files are more or less self-contained and reasonably predictable. PostScript documents describe an image or drawing and can be placed within another PostScript document.

Exposed Neon
Neon tubing which is exposed to the elements or which can be seen through clear acrylic faces. Used mainly for novelty or special effect.

Externally Illuminated
Describes a sign which is illuminated from external flood-lamps on the wall. Usually a non-internally lit sign.

Aluminum material which is sent through a metal bending or shaping system to form a typical part to be used for industry.



Fabricated Letter
Usually a letter made with an aluminum face and sides and is hollow inside. Typically not an illuminated letter.

The front of a building that looks onto the street or open space. Usually the façade dimensions are used when calculating sign area.

A term used in architecture to refer to a frieze or band running horizontally and situated vertically under the roof edge.

First Surface
When describing how vinyl graphics are applied to a window, “first surface” means that the letters are applied to the outside of the window.

Flat Cut Out (FCO)
Flat pieces of sign substrate (aluminum, acrylic or PVC) which are cut into letters or shapes and attached to a wall or backer. These letters or logos are non-Illuminated.

Flex Face
A flexible sign face material which can be printed or covered in vinyl graphics and used as the translucent face of a cabinet sign. Flex faces are typically more wind-resistant than rigid plastic faces.

A sign design and graphics based software program, specifically used in the sign industry. FlexiSign can be used to communicate between computer and router or vinyl cutter.

Fluorescent Light bulb
A type of light bulb consisting of long white tubes, as opposed to incandescent light bulbs.

Flush Mount
Sign mounting technique where the sign is attached directly against the wall with no space between wall and sign.

In typography a font is traditionally defined as a quantity of sorts composing a complete character set of a single size and style of a particular typeface.

Concrete base set into the ground, specifically designed to support the sign’s weight and wind-load, keeping the structure stable.

Formed Plastic Letter
Heat is used to form and shape plastic sheeting into letters or graphics which will eventually be affixed onto a background. These letters and logos are non-Illuminated.

The width of the front wall of a building or leased space making up the store-front.



Ground Sign
A monument or pylon sign which is free-standing, as opposed to being mounted on a wall.

GTO Cable
Gas Tube Oil ignition cable. A cable rated for 5, 10, or 15 kV for use between the secondary or output of a neon supply (transformer) and neon tubing and between segments of neon tubing.



Halo-Lit Letter
A reverse channel letter (mounted 1 ½ inches away from the wall), with an aluminum face and returns and a translucent backer, which when lit produces a halo of light around the letter onto the wall.



Interior Sign
Any sign or letterset which is mounted to the interior of a building or mall.

Internally Illuminated
Any sign or letter which is lit from the inside.



The most common image format used by digital cameras and other photographic image capture devices. A bitmap file of gradient colors.




A small open fronted hut or cubicle from which merchandise is sold.



LED – Light Emitting Diode
A small, bright, energy efficient light source used in the sign industry in place of neon or fluorescent lamps.

Refers to the plastic face of channel letters. May consist of clear, translucent and/or colored acrylic or polycarbonate.

A trademarked name for high impact polycarbonate resin (plastic) used for sign.

Line Art
Line art is any image that consists of distinct straight and curved lines placed against a (usually plain) background, without gradation. It can then be scanned or photographed easily and translated into vector art for production.

Also called logotype. A graphic representation or symbol of a company name, trademark, abbreviation, etc., often uniquely designed for ready recognition.



Marquee Sign
A permanent structure attached to the front of a building which incorporates a large message center. Typically illuminated and often ornate in design, a marquee sign projects over the entrance of the building and provides a canopy over at least a portion of the sidewalk or street. Marquee signs are often used by movie theaters and concert halls.

MDO Plywood - Medium Density Overlay Plywood
An exterior grade layered wood product which can be painted and used as a temporary or permanent sign.

Monument Sign
An upright sign located on the ground (as opposed to a wall sign) and is usually double sided, with a brick or aluminum base.

Painted sign, typically on a wall.



A hand-blown lamp that utilizes electrically charged neon or argon gas contained within a clear or color-coated vacuum glass tube to generate light.

Referring to a sign which has no internal light source. A non-illuminated sign usually is illuminated from available ambient light. Example: Flat Cut Out aluminum letters, Sintra panel with vinyl letters or fabricated aluminum letter.



Meaning that little or no light may pass through. Usually referring to opaque vinyl as opposed to translucent.



Pan Aluminum
A technique in fabricating a thin sign backer, where the aluminum is made into a shoe box lid- like panel, usually non-lit.

A low protective wall along the edge of a roof.

A file format used to represent documents in a manner independent of application software, hardware or operating systems.

An official city, county or state document allowing a business’s individual signs to be installed on premise. City inspectors issue a permit after noting that the sign follows all sign codes and city rules. Signs are typically not allowed to be installed without an official permit.

Pillowed Face (also Pan Face)
A vacuum and heat formed plastic sign face which gives the perimeter of the face depth, like a cake-pan. This adds rigidity to flat plastic and increases the distance from the internal light source. The depth of a Pillowed or Pan face can vary, but is approximately 2”.

An electronic machine which translates digital information from a computer. Usually used in cutting vinyl or drawing a large scale drawing.

PMS Pantone Matching System
A standard industry wide system of color match swatches which are used in the graphic arts industry, typically used in communicating paint, ink or vinyl colors.

Post and Panel Sign
A sign system typically utilizing two posts with a double sided panel between. Generally used for directional signs, are non-lit, and easily changeable with a new panel.

Pounce Pattern
A template which is taped to a wall where letters are to be mounted. Typically consists of outline holes around letters on paper. When combined with a chalk bag rubbed against the holes, it leaves a chalk outline transferring the sign drawing on to the sign back-ground.

Powder Coating
A specific process for applying color to a surface that creates a very durable protective finish.

Power Pack
An electrical transforming device used in lit signs, typically with LED lighting. Similar to transformers (neon) or ballasts (fluorescent).

An initial opaque undercoating of paint, typically white, which allows for better overall paint adhesion. Helps prepare and protect the surface and cover up earlier painted coats.

Projecting Sign
A sign which projects perpendicular to a wall or post.

Push Thru Letter
A transparent or translucent letter system which is “pushed through” a routered aluminum sign face. The push-thru letters are held in place by a backer slightly wider than the letter hole. May be combined with a vinyl overlay on the front or back.

PVC – Polyvinyl Chloride
A common thermoplastic resin, used in a wide variety of manufactured products including sign substrates. (Sintra is a brand of PVC)

Pylon Pole Cover
An aluminum covering similar to a monument skirt, which covers the sign pole, running the entire height of the pole. Allows for a more finished or custom look to the pole.

Pylon Sign
A typically tall, freestanding outdoor sign mounted onto 1 or 2 poles, usually illuminated, and advertising the name of businesses. A pylon sign is installed on the business property, but not attached to the building.





A metal box running the length of a set of lighted letters, where all electrical wires and transformers are housed. All letters are connected together on the face of the raceway and the entire unit is mounted to the wall. This method of installing lighted letters minimizes wall penetrations and makes for easier service in the future.

Rail Mounted
Another method of mounting letters and signs to an exterior wall. Letters are mounted to the face of the rails on top and bottom. The rails are typically a 2 or 3 inch aluminum square tube running the full length of a set of lighted letters. They may or may not contain electrical wiring.

Regulatory Sign
A sign term referring to non-illuminated aluminum traffic signs, which are typically standardized throughout the country. Example: Stop, One Way, etc.

Removable Letters
Changeable plastic letter set system, where the customer may change their own wording and message. Changeable letters fit into plastic tracks, typically on the face of a cabinet sign. Letters come in various colors, sizes and types.

An “L” piece of metal which holds a sign face onto the sign cabinet body. Typically a retainer is removable for service and/or face replacement.

The side or edge of a channel letter or cabinet sign which “returns” the face to the wall. Return depths can vary.

An indented horizontal line running the perimeter of a monument sign or other sign, usually between base and cabinet or between two cabinets.

Similar machine to a Plotter, where digital information is sent from a computer and translated to a cutting blade. A router usually cuts sign substrates such as aluminum or plastic.

Routed Face
Typically an aluminum face with letters or graphics cut out. These cut out areas may be backed with translucent white acrylic or have push thru letters inserted.




A process where sand is blown at high pressure against a substrate (typically wood) that has an area blocked away, usually for letters. The blasted sand eats way the wood only in the area where there is no blocker, creating a weather-worn look.

Sans Serif
Fonts without “serifs” (see below). Also known as block letters. Example: Helvetica, Arial.

Second Surface
When describing how vinyl graphics are applied to a window, “second surface” means that the letters are applied to the inside of the window, readable from the outside.

Those fonts which have “serifs”. That part on a letter which sticks out on the bottom, top, etc. This added bit makes serif letters more expensive as opposed to block or sans serif letters. Example: Times, Goudy

A computer accessible to an entire network, usually with files used by all users.

Shop Drawing
A drawing or group of drawings featuring exploded views, multiple views and/or section details, assembly instructions, etc. These drawings further explain sign information and help the shop in fabrication of the signs.

Sign Area
The measurement of a wall sign or letter set, (width x height), used in calculations for sign code. Sign codes explicitly mandate the maximum sign area allowed. Sign areas may be calculated a few different ways: (W x H) Pi R Squared, or even using separate boxes around individual parts or letters. The municipality will dictate the measurement method.

Sign Backer
A fabricated sign background panel (aluminum, Sintra, wood) with lighted, flat cut out or vinyl letters installed onto the face of the backer. The entire sign (backer and letters) is then installed on the wall.

Sign Band
A specific area on a building or tenant space where signs may be installed.

Sign Code/Ordinance
Municipalities dictate laws written to regulate the size, type and scope of building signage in that city, etc. Ordinances are usually divided along Zoning Areas. All municipalities have their own Sign Ordinances which need to be researched thoroughly before signs are designed and submitted for review. Sign Permits will not be issued until all requirements are met.

Sign Face
The front of a sign, made from translucent white acrylic and applied vinyl letters, or painted routed aluminum (or any other substrate.)

Sign Foam
A sign substrate which can be used for backers or flat cut out letters. Sign Foam comes in various thicknesses and colors and can be combined with other materials to create light-weight dimensional graphics.

Trademarked name for PVC sign substrate. Comes in various thicknesses and colors. Sturdy and lightweight, Sintra may be used for flat cut out letters or backing material.

Site Plan
Typically a top view of a building, parking lot and all land area involved with a certain property. Sign locations and property lines may be noted on the drawing.

An aluminum covering around the bottom of a monument sign typically used when a masonry base is not required.

A sleeve of hollow metal, slipped over the install hardware, so that the letter or sign is not mounted “flush” to the wall, but stands off by a certain measurement.

Stud Mount
Threaded metal pins which are screwed into letter backs and then pushed into a wall where they are adhered and sealed into place.



Temporary Sign
A non-permanent sign, usually installed for a short period of time, fabricated from cheaper, less durable materials.

Electrical equipment that converts input voltage and current to a different output voltage and current. In general, a transformer is any apparatus that continuously increases or decreases the voltage of a power supply. They are an important element in all neon signs, due to the high voltage required. (Fluorescent lamps require a specialized type of transformer unit called a ballast.)

The property of a material such as vinyl, paint or ink that allows the passage of some light through it without being transparent. Internally illuminated signs rely on translucent paints and vinyls.

The property of a material that allows light and images to pass through and may also show a color tint.

Trim Cap
A plastic piece (similar to a retainer but smaller) which holds a sign face onto the sign body. Comes in various colors, but may be painted to match, etc. Trim-cap is typically used in the manufacture of lighted letters.



UL – Underwriters Laboratory

A safety consulting and certification company, providing safety-related certification, validation, testing, inspection, auditing, advising and training services. All electrical signs and components need to be UL listed.

UV – Ultraviolet Light
UV (sun light) is the main cause of paint and vinyl fade.



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

Vector Art File
A “vector” is a line between two points. Vector graphics are based on images made up of vectors which lead through control points. Each of these points has a definite position on the x and y axis of the work plan. Plotters and routers use this information to cut letters and shapes. This type of artwork file is different from “bitmaps” (see above). Exampe: EPS file,

Adobe Illustrator file.

Vehicle Graphics
Cut and applied vinyl letters and printed graphics on car or truck bodies.

VHB Tape - VHB® (Very High Bond) tape
A tape produced by 3M®. The tape joins sign parts in lieu of mechanical fasteners or bonded or welded attachments, and is available in many grades and thicknesses.

Colored adhesive sheeting on rolls, used for sign graphics. Letters and graphics are cut out of the rolls on a plotter. The plotter is connected to a computer, where the sign is designed. The cut vinyl is applied to the substrate. Comes in various sizes, colors and grades.



Wall Sign
A sign mounted and installed onto a building wall, either interior or exterior. Can be channel letters, cabinet signs, flat cut out letters, etc.

Wayfinding Signs
Signs, maps and other graphics used to convey locations and directions to potential customers travelling either in a vehicle or on foot.

Weep Holes
Small holes drilled into the bottom returns of channel letters or cabinet signs in order to let any moisture drain out. Weep holes (or drain holes) are sometimes covered with another piece of metal so light doesn’t escape.

Window Sign
A type of sign hanging inside a window. Example: Neon or LED OPEN sign or beer sign.

Similar to a Raceway, but thinner in depth. The wireway contains the secondary wires, but the power packs or transformers are contained within the building. May also refer to a wireway inside of a cabinet sign, where electrical is contained.

Work Order
A request for service or fabrication, etc. The work order has information specific to that particular job, and also has a specific reference number.





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