Welcome to the Motive Graphics dictionary of signs – full of great ideas, the industry lingo, basic signs to the outright quirky – we’ve documented it all our guide to give you an understanding of types of commercial signs.
An object that conveys information. Any device, structure, display or placard which is affixed to, placed on or in proximity to or displayed from within a building to attract the attention of the public for the purposes of advertising, identifying or communicating.
The collective description for signs – especially commercial or public display signs. Any group of posted information, commands, warnings, or directions.
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An acrylic plaque can be used for interior or exterior placements and can replace glass signs due to its transparent aesthetic and safety and durability. An exceptionally versatile product, it can be reverse printed or cut to enhance your sign design.
Aluminium signs are the types of commercial signs that can be manufactured with different finishes to create very different textures, and are also available with many different colours and finishes. An aluminium sign provides a lightweight yet very durable and high-quality exterior sign.
A sign that uses sequential lights to provide the illusion of movement.
A sign having two faces mounted in opposite directions. Pole signs typically have back-to-back faces. (See also Double faced sign).
backlit letter sign
An illuminated reverse channel letter where the light from the letter is directed against and reflected off the surface behind the letter thereby producing a glowing effect around the letter. (See also Halo illuminated letters).
A flexible sign, usually made of vinyl and often intended for temporary. It is commonly manufactured with eyelets to enable fastening to a rigid framework or fence. (See also Flags).
A sign mounted onto a seat in a public area with high footfall, such as a bus stop or bench within a shopping area.
A large outdoor sign used for advertising. Advertisers will rent a billboard sign and display their advertisement on it for a set length of time. Sizes usually vary coming in 48 or 96 sheets.
A sign that is self enclosed in a typically square or rectangular structure with or without the addition of internal lighting. Can be single or double faced. (See also Lightboxes).
A projecting canopy sign is usually situated over a building entrance or window and is made of non-rigid material that covers a framework which attaches to a building. As well as providing signage, a Canopy sign can provide shelter to the area underneath. A canopy sign will have a printed exterior surface. It may or not be illuminated. (See also Awning signs).
cast metal sign
Any metal sign that is made through a die cast process. Aluminum and bronze are commonly used for cast metal signs. This is usually the manufacturing process for sign plaques.
Any sign made by the engraving or chiselling of letters and/of shapes into the substrate of a sign face.
Economical, temporary signs that are ideal for weather-resistant outdoor usage. Correx is a durable corrugated PVC that can be printed on either side for maximum exposure.
An adhesive sign that is popular for use on windows. “Decals” is also a generic term used for printed and cut out logos for cars, bikes and other vehicles. (See also Stickers).
Signs made of lettering which has been engraved, carved or otherwise recessed into the sign substrate. (See also Embossed letter signs).
Illuminating a sign via an additional source of light which is directed at the sign face. (See also Exterior illuminated signs).
A sign providing information, either written or visual, that helps direct a person to a destination. (See also Fingerpost signage).
A sign that provides an organized list of names of people, offices or facilities located within a given building or area. Usually located at a public access point such as a building lobby, a directory sign may provide simple text listings or also include maps and other wayfinding information.
A sign having two faces mounted in opposite directions. Pole signs are typically doubled-faced. (See also Back to back sign).
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edge lit sign
An illuminated sign where the light source is positioned on the outside of the sign face along one or more of its edges such that the light shines back onto it.
Any sign that contains and utilises electrical components.
electro mechanical sign
A type of message centre sign where an electrically driven mechanical device rotates or flips to produce changing messages.
Signs made of raised lettering which stands out above the sign substrate. (See also Debossed letter signs).
Environmentally friendly alternative to PVC foam boards, ideal for internal and short term internal display boards. Carries FSC certification and is made from 100% recycled products.
A sign that is illuminated by an external light source directed at and onto the sign face. (See also Direct illumination signage).
An outdoor sign that typically includes shop fascias, commercial signs, directional signs, business signs, industrial signs. Exterior signage can be a large permanent sign to market your business to small mobile pavement signs or temporary outdoor signage. (see also Outdoor Signs)
face illuminated letters
Individual sign letters that are illuminated, usually manufactured with translucent materials and bright LED’s fitted internally so the face is lit up. Made to match the colour of your chosen design. A highly effective way to make a bold brand statement which can produce a variety of effects for your lit sign.
A sign mounted to a wall or other vertical surface. A flat sign that is mounted on a wall and the face of which runs parallel to the wall. A fascia sign does not typically project from the wall.
Fingerposts are, as the name would suggest, post mounted directional signs having one or more panels or ‘fingers’, each of which ‘point’ in the direction of a particular destination to assist travel navigation. Usually outdoor signs but can also be utilised to good effect within large buildings. (See also Directional signage).
A flexible sign usually of a small size and made of fabric material. It is attached by one side of the shape to a pole. Often intended for temporary use and most useful when either hung so the graphics are able to be viewed or in windy weather conditions. (See also Banner).
An illuminated sign which uses flashing or intermittent lights as a means of drawing attention.
A flat sign is simply a large, flat panel or board that is printed directly to the surface. A simple budget signage option.
Similar to Neon signs, Fluorescent signs utilise light tubes. (See also Neon signs).
foamex or foamboard sign
A permanent indoor or temporary outdoor signage solution that is a smoother substrate alternative to correx signs. Both sides can be printed to provide maximum promotional space. Find out if you can recycle foamex.
A sign that is not attached to a building, has its own support structure and is typically secured to a foundation or with guy wires.
A sign that is lit externally by an alternative light source. (See also Trough lighting)
A freestanding sign that is not secured to a foundation or other secondary support structure.
A projecting double-faced sign mounted to a wall or pole and hung from a bracket or support arm. (See also Projecting signage).
high rise sign
A freestanding sign tall enough to be seen from a distance.
A sign that provides the name of the business displaying the sign.
Usually manufactured from aluminium and acrylic with low voltage LED’s, this is a robust and eye-catching exterior sign – especially when supporting an illuminated fascia sign. These are mounted to exterior walls and are permanent. (See also Projected tray signs)
A sign intended for informational purposes as opposed to commercial or advertising purposes. Typically smaller in size, examples of incidental signs include parking signs, lavatory signs and entrance and exit signs.
A sign that is not exposed to the outdoor weather elements and therefore is usually located within a building or structure.
lcd sign (liquid crystal display sign)
A type of flat panel display that recreates an image or message through the manipulation of electrically sensitive crystals suspended in a liquid medium. Commonly used in electronic message centres.
led sign (light emitting diode sign)
A small electronic device that emits light when electrically charged. In computer controlled arrays, LEDs can be used to create an electronic message centre. The preferred method of lighting all modern signs as LED is usually 12v (low energy) which is safer than 230v.
A sign that is self enclosed in a typically square or rectangular structure and houses an internal light system for illumination of the sign face. (See also Box sign.)
A sign where the lighting or illumination is created to enable visibility in the dark. (See also Illuminated signage).
low profile sign
A freestanding sign built close to the ground or on top of a base sitting directly on the ground. Often incorporates the support structure into the overall design.
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A permanent structure attached to the front of a building. Typically illuminated and often ornate in design, a marquee sign projects over the entrance of the building and provides a canopy over the street.
A sign, typically a plaque, which commemorates a person, place or event.
A changeable point-of-purchase sign that provides a list of products and prices. (See also Variable message signage).
Available in almost any shape or size, metal signs are suitable for a huge range of indoor or outdoor uses. Cost effective and durable with many different finishes available, they can achieve the perfect look for your brand. They can be engraved, embossed or etched
An outdoor freestanding, long term sign that is mounted to the ground. Normally comprises of two back to back printed signage panels. (See also Totem sign).
panel and post sign
A sign fabricated by using one or more visible posts to support the sign body. Normally seen for the attachment of all road signs and “council” signs. Aluminium construction and extremely hardwearing.
A sign mounted on the parapet of a building. (See also Building mounted signage).
Graphics and markings applied to roadways and parking areas to guide and manage traffic and to supplement other traffic signs. Usually with an R rated (anti-slip) laminated applied to the face for safety.
Any sign that is affixed to a building or structure in such a manner as to give it the support necessary to resist environmental loads over time and to preclude easy removal.
A projecting wall sign that is an affordable alternative to the projecting tray signage available. Usually manufactured from powder coated, folded metal and printed to your design specification, they are a permanent signage option.
point-of-purchase (pop) sign
In-store advertising designed to stimulate impulse purchases by shoppers inside a store. The term applies to a store’s internal sign system, as well as special displays and dispensers created by and for specific product manufacturers.
A freestanding sign, usually double-faced, mounted on a round pole, square tube, or other fabricated member without any type of secondary support.
pop (point of purchase) sign
Retail advertising designed to stimulate impulse purchases by shoppers inside a store. The term applies to a store’s internal sign system, as well as special displays and product dispensers.
An on-premise sign which is capable of being repositioned without the need for specialist help. These could include, A-frames, freestanding signs or notices as well as point-of-purchase signs.
A paper signage option, usually for interior display usage. Smaller signage that is exceptionally cheap to produce.
post mounted sign
A sign that is attached to one or more sign poles.
An exterior sign that are wall mounted and usually supports branding to a fascia sign. These are permanent in nature and require little to no maintenance once in situ. (See also Illuminated projecting tray sign)
projecting lightbox sign
A long term, illuminated outdoor signage option that is wall mounted. Lit by sustainable LED’s and manufactured from aluminium and acrylic, these signs are energy efficient as well as eye-catching.
A sign that has the ability to turn 360 degrees in order to deliver changing messages.
A sign tray is a folded sign, usually made of aluminium to ensure longevity. A permanent signage option, usually for exterior use. (See also Tray sign).
Channel/rail that is attached to the reverse side of the sign and allows clips to be added, that in turn allows fitting to sign posts.
single face sign
A sign consisting of one face, rather than back-to-back faces on a common frame or back-to-back messages on the same piece of material.
An adhesive sign that is popular for use on windows. (See also Decals).
Typically sandstone, granite, marble, limestone and other common decorative stone material. Letters can be stud-mounted to stone or they can be carved into the face of the stone.
Any sign that is not intended to be permanently installed. Banners and signs at construction sites are good examples of temporary signs.
A process that takes a flat sheet of material and gives it dimension by heating then forcing it into a mould to create a shape. (See also Vacuum forming signage).
An outdoor freestanding, long term sign that is mounted to the ground. Normally comprises of two back to back printed signage panels. Usually an aluminium construction and concreted into the floor. (See also Totem sign).
A tray sign is a folded sign to add depth and impact to the sign (typically 50 or 100mm), usually made of aluminium to ensure durability. A permanent signage option, usually for exterior use. (See also Sign trays).
Solid lighting bars positioned overhead to light the face of signs located on the front of a building. (See also Front lit sign).
A sign designed to be mounted underneath a canopy.
A sign designed to provide changing information, such as in airports and cafes or restaurants. (See also Menu board signage).
Taking a flat sheet of material and giving it dimension by placing it in a mold, heating it until pliable and them drawing the air out of the mold, creating a vacuum and forming material to the mold. (See also Thermoforming signage).
Vinyl signs are usually adhesive and can be applied to many different surfaces, similar to stickers but can be manufactured on a much larger scale. A signage option for vehicles, windows and walls as they have the advantage of being applied to both flat or curved surfaces.
A single-face sign mounted on a wall. (See also Wall signage).
A sign that is mounted on a wall. Also called Fascia-mounted signs and Wall mounts. (See also Wall mounted sign.)
A sign that is mounted or hung for display inside a window and intended to be viewed from the outside.
Window graphics are usually adhesive printed materials that are mounted for display onto the inside or outside of windows.
3D signage is created in a way that brings depth to the sign using layers to enhance its visual appearance so letters and logos can, literally, stand out.
Whilst this is an extensive list of signage types, it is not exhaustive.
When considering what type of signage to utilise for your business or brand, think about the permanence, location, desired use and budget to get the very best result.
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David Hennessy is our Managing Director and co-founder of Motive Graphics, a sign, vehicle graphics and exhibition services business based in Huntingdon and supplying Cambridge, Peterborough and Nationally.
what our customers say about us
Great service, from initial contact right through to install of graphics on the van,
Would 100% recommend they guys and girls at Motive.
Matt Riley, Private Chef - Van Graphics
We had the pleasure of working with Motive Graphics for the re-design of our signage throughout our salon and outside. From start to finish they were on the ball, and efficient in their correspondence with us. Nothing was every too much trouble, no matter how many times we tweaked things. Edward was so helpful throughout. We would 100% recommend Motive Graphics. The salon looks amazing, thank you!
Lash and Glo - Signage and Interior Graphics
We've been using Motive for all of our exhibition and display needs. I can't thank them enough for the projects they have delivered, they always go over and above to help us to achieve our goals. They cover everything from concept creation, to sourcing materials, delivery and build. Everything is always delivered to the highest standard, and there is never a problem that can't be solved! A massive THANK YOU.
Essential Cuisine - Exhibition Stand and Events Solution
From a small pizza chain called The pizza room, Dave and his team were extremely and utterly professional and helpful from the day of purchase to receiving the stickers. Seriously couldn't recommend Motive Graphics any more. We will definitely be using them for future projects we have coming up 🙂
The Pizza Room London - Shop Signs
We’d like to say a massive thank you to the legends at Motive Graphics for design and creating a full range of signs in time for our official opening last weekend! From a rough brief, they created and tweaked proofs to suit our (and the council’s) requirements, and had them made and ready for collection in no time. Thanks again for your help guys!
Paradigm Cycles - Signs and Interior Graphics
The guys have just left after putting up the external signs at the gym and an internal one on the front desk. I week from quote to install with no issues at all. Will 100% be using again on our next batch of internal signage.
Alpha Athletic Gym - Shop Signs
Ordering was easy, goods turned up on time, great quality stickers that have made a huge impact in getting people to comply with the new rules
Martin Taylor - Social Distancing Stickers
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