Identification of Sign Types


The possibilities for signage are limited only by imagination and budget. In fact, many businesses will benefit from using more than one type of sign as part of their overall strategy. However, signs range from simple to complex, with costs ranging from a few hundred dollars well into the thousands.

Explore these different types of signs:


Signs that are mounted on a building’s exterior can serve as key branding for your business to the outside world, as well as assist your customers—and potential customers—in finding your location. However, there are a number of different types of building-mounted signs, which typically differ in exactly where on the building’s exterior they appear.

  • Awnings extends from the building—typically above a door—and also serves as shelter. While the traditional awning is rounded, it can be created in virtually any shape.
  • Canopy sign is similar to an awning, except it does not include the goal of providing shelter. It extends from a building’s exterior wall and may also function as a marquee.
  • Parapet sign is mounted on the building’s parapet, which is a wall or railing that runs along the edge of the roof.
  • Projecting sign is mounted on the building, but the sign extends at a perpendicular angle.
  • Roof sign is mounted on the building’s roof.
  • Sign band is often used in buildings in which there are multiple tenants, such as a shopping center. The sign band runs above the tenants’ entrances and accommodates various signage for each tenant.
  • Wall or fascia sign attaches to the exterior wall or fascia of the building. (The fascia is a vertical extension that can reach from the grade to the top wall or eaves, the horizontal extension across the width of the building. It also can include slanted wall surfaces, called a mansard.)
  • Window sign may be either attached or applied to the window.


One of the newest innovations in signage is dynamic digital, which is essentially a large screen or screens displaying a message. This type of signage has many uses, including:

  • External sign to display an advertising message.
  • Point-of-purchase displays; studies show that grocery stores using dynamic digital signage see a 33 % increase in additional sales for the product being advertised.
  • Lobby areas; studies show that digital displays in a lobby area significantly reduce the perceived wait time. A simple television could keep people entertained in the waiting area but would miss the opportunity to reinforce your brand with a captive audience.
  • Restaurant menus where alterations to menu items or nutritional information cause expensive and frequent sign changes.
  • Video wall displays creates a high impact since screens can show a variety of messages or combine for one large image.

As with most new technology, digital signage bears a large initial charge, though the prices of screens and related equipment are dropping rapidly. It also requires frequent upgrades, software changes, and high-quality content. There likely will be recurring costs as well, for electricity to power the sign and routine maintenance. There also may be local ordinances that affect external signage.

The cost and complexity of digital signage should not hinder consideration of whether it is right for your specific application. Digital images capture our attention and make a lasting impression. Traditional forms of media are becoming less and less effective. People don’t read newspapers as frequently and many viewers fast forward through TV commercials. An external sign is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. An internal sign is operational whenever your business is open, advertising your specials, reinforcing your brand image, or explaining more about your line of work.

Businesses should not be quick to dismiss digital signage due to the expense, nor should they be quick to adopt just to look technologically savvy. Careful consideration of this exciting new area of signage can help you find the right digital signage for your needs.


As with building-mounted signs, a freestanding sign is well explained by the name itself. It is a sign that is freestanding, or not attached to a building. These signs also may be located away from the business, such as at a highway exit or at the entrance to a business complex. Even within this category, though, there are various types of signs. The types of signs most effective for your particular use may be determined by the location of your building, such as whether it’s in a shopping center or business complex. Others may be affected by local ordinances.

Some of the most common freestanding signs follow:

  • Directional signs point the way for pedestrians or drivers and can be especially useful when a business is not clearly seen from a complex’s entrance. Interior directional signs also are known as wayfinding signs.
  • Electronic message centers (EMCs) include changing messages and other information, such as time/temperature on many bank signs. Electronic message centers have many forms, including traditional incandescent lighting, LEDs, LCDs or a flipper matrix.
  • Joint tenant signs display the various tenants of a business complex or shopping center and are most likely located near the entrance to the property.
  • Monument signs are often lower in height than many signs and may be required by local ordinances or, in the case of business developments, by the landlord.
  • Pole signs are freestanding with a visible support structure; if the pole is particularly tall, it may also be called a “high-rise pole.” These are contrasted with a pylon sign, in which the support structure is enclosed.


Exterior signage helps customers find your business, but interior signs direct them once inside. This is no mere afterthought; interior signage can be critical to helping your customers navigate your business, make buying decisions, and sometimes help you stay on the right side of the law. As with exterior signs, interior signs come in many shapes and forms, and several types may be required for your business.

While businesses of any type may need interior signage, it has specific applications and uses depending upon your type of business you operate. An experienced sign company can help you determine which sign type might work best for your particular need.

  • Directional or wayfinding signs can help customers and employees navigate your business by, for example, pointing to specific departments inside your location.
  • Directory signs are used in buildings with multiple tenants, or in a development with a group of buildings.
  • Mall signs are similar to a directory sign in that it is used in buildings with multiple tenants. However, it may have uses beyond merely pointing to a specific location. It may include multiple advertising opportunities.
  • Point-of-purchase signs have a direct impact on a customer’s buying decisions, whether that signage points to a sale, or simply to the particular uses or benefits of a product.
  • Regulatory signs reinforce a rule, ordinance or law. A stop sign, for instance, is a type of regulatory sign. While most businesses don’t install stop signs, they do have a need for signs that help keep customers safe by, say, clearly marking an exit. Signs also may be needed to keep a business compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, which requires clearly marked handicapped entrances and Braille on certain types of signage. The ADA also has requirements for how large the signs must be. It’s best to work with a professional to ensure that signage meets this requirement.


What if every time you got into your car, you started a rolling billboard? That’s just what vehicle wraps can do. These specially applied vinyl wraps can be seen by millions each year, depending on how often the vehicle is on the road. The costs of vehicle wraps is often one of the lowest forms of advertising available and offers one of the highest recall rates. In fact, one study showed that 94% of drivers recalled seeing mobile advertising while 80% of them could remember the specific company. A vehicle wrap also can serve as a stationary sign, if parked outside your place of business.

Vehicle wraps can be applied to cars, trucks, vans or trailers. They are ideal for a sole proprietor looking to market his or her business, or for a large company that wants the advertising that comes from wrapping every company vehicle.

While there are some stand-alone vehicle wrap shops, consider incorporating them as part of your comprehensive sign package. When working with a sign company, ask if they handle vehicle wraps; if not, ask for a referral.