Your Name in Lights: Great Signage For Business


The signage for your business is like its face – the first thing someone sees about you.  It is very important to make a good impression.  But there are many elements to consider before you “hang out your sign.” 

Good signage is integrated into the design of the whole business.  It should coordinate with your logo and general graphic package, square with the era and type of your building, and say something about the style and type of place you operate.  Here are some of the technical details of putting together (and putting UP) great restaurant or business signage.

Signage in Chicago: Not Easy to Expedite

Chicago takes its signage pretty seriously.  A business needs a permit for any signage it wants to add, a process that can take up to two months. AND if that new signage will project out from the side of the building – even as little as 4” – it may also require a public way use permit.  Strictly speaking, to install the sign over the building will probably require a ladders and equipment set up on the sidewalk.  And, you guessed it, that requires an Obstruction Permit from the city. 

Fortunately, most sign companies in Chicago are well versed in this process.  Not only can they fabricate and install new business signage but most will also expedite the permitting requirements into the bargain.

What they may not be able to do quite as effectively is design new signage that blends perfectly with your overall building design.  Moss, however, loves to consider signage and branding as part of the design.  Check out our recent Uptown Family Vision Branding Process post.

Signs by Type

If you come to moss looking for help with your branding, we will dig in detail to coordinate your exterior signage with the cohesive nature of your entire building and your intentions for it.  Each project is individual.  So we won’t try to predict what you might want here in a blog post.  Instead lets discus some basic terminology.  Here is a taxonomy of signage by type:

Blade Signs 

Blades project off the side of the building at, or above, the 2nd story level.  They can be tall and narrow, following the building wall with vertical text, or square, ovoid, or wider than they are tall.  They are cantilevered off the building – supported from one side – or might be hung from a cantilevered arm.  

Flush Signs

As you might expect, these are in the plane of the building front, although they can still have depth, either in a block or with individual letters and elements standing individually off the building surface. These may be internally lit, or have light shown on them.  

Awning Signage

Especially in south or west facing buildings, its great to have some temporary or permanent shade devices to shield the windows from the full sun.  That shade device can double as a signage medium, allowing for extra text or another place to mark your building with a consistent brand. 

Glazing Signage

Signs can also be applied to the window and door glass of the facade.  This might be a few simple text or logo elements or it could cover the entire glazing area, turning clear glass into something more translucent.  Don’t forget the objects and building design behind the glass can also act as signage.  Glimpses of a well designed business through the front window should be its own best advertisement!

Wall or Ghost Signs

These are just painted directly on a large area of blank, often brick, wall.  As they fade over time, or advertise businesses that no longer exist, signs like this are known as Ghost Signs.  Ghost signs are often protected by ordinance … and they are really cool.  Here’s a student created website that documents Ghost Signage in Chicago.

Integrated Signs

Sometimes the sign and the building can become one and the same.  Signage may be made an element of a bar height table mounted at the front window wall, or be located in a change in ceiling height near the front which draws the eye inward.  The possibilities here are many!

For more a little more detail on sign types, check out this very comprehensive design guide by Stephen James Kennedy for New Orleans business, or just drop by our office for a detailed discussion of all the sign possibilities!