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775 Pacific Rd. Unit #35  Oakville, ON  L6L 6M4
Complete Guide To Storefront Signs

Complete Guide to Storefront Signs

Good signage is an essential part of any storefront. It lets your customers know who you are; it conveys your brand message; and it delivers key messages about your business, promotions and special events. Something like storefront signage may seem like a simple thing but it is easy to get overwhelmed when you realize how many types of signage are available. Add the variety of available materials, colours, designs and, sizes and it can be hard to know where to start.

Because your signage is one of the first things that customers notice when they come to your establishment, you want to choose it carefully.

In this guide, we will discuss the various types of storefront signage and provide you with the information necessary to help you make the right choice for your business.  

Illuminated vs. Non-Illuminated Storefront Signage

One of the first decisions you will have to make in choosing signage for your storefront is whether to get illuminated signage or non-illuminated.

Non-illuminated signage may be less expensive, but you shouldn’t let cost be your only consideration. Remember that the extra money that you invest in an illuminated sign will pay off if it results in attracting more customers to your business.

Furthermore, while illuminated signage may be a bigger investment upfront, modern LED lighting is very energy efficient and is unlikely to put much of a dent in your utility bill.

Non-Illuminated Signage

While illuminated signage is a great option for businesses that want their messaging to be visible at night, not all businesses have the necessary infrastructure to have lit signage. Furthermore, not every business needs illuminated signage.

If your business falls into this category, there are many non-illuminated signage options for you to choose from.

The two main categories of non-illuminated storefront signage include:

  • 3D letters – this is a popular way for you to display your business name or logo. Non-illuminated 3D letters come in a variety of materials including aluminum, acrylic, plastic, bronze, brass and PVC.
  • Non-Illuminated face signs – these are signs that may come with or without a frame and can be easily changed whenever you wish to change the messaging of your business. This can be a great choice of signage for well-lit areas such as shopping centres and industrial units.
non-illuminated face sign and awning

Illuminated Sign Boxes

Illuminated sign boxes are one of the most common types of illuminated signage for storefronts. They are boxes that contain LED lighting with a front facing acrylic sign that allows the light to shine through it, making it visible to customers at any time of day or night. The sign itself may have any font, colour, or design that the business owner wishes it to have.

led-lit illuminated sign box

While most sign boxes are internally lit, this is not always possible – and in some cases, this is not always desired by the business owner. When the sign is not internally lit, there are two other options:

  • Externally lit sign boxes – this can create a similar effect, but instead of the light shining through the sign, there is a light that shines on the sign (such as using a gooseneck light).
externally-lit sign box in oakville
  • Unlit sign boxes – these are just like illuminated sign boxes with the exception that there is no light source. These can still be very attractive signs; however, they will be much less visible at night.

Channel Letters

Channel letter signage is a great choice when you want to give your storefront a distinctive look. This three-dimensional text is usually three to six inches deep and may be illuminated with LED lighting, or they may be unlit. A wide variety of fonts and graphics may be created through channel letter and the letters may be attached to a backing or directly to the building itself.

When it comes to channel lettering, there are several different subcategories to choose from, including:

  • Halo lit channel letters – these are channel letters in which light emits out of the edges of the lettering but not through the front, giving the sign a “halo effect.” This can give your sign a very elegant appearance.
halo lit channel letters
  • Front-lit channel letters – these are channel letters where the light comes through the front. These letters typically have metal sides and a translucent vinyl front that allows light to pass through. Front-lit channel lettering is more popular than halo lit lettering because it allows for brighter colours to be seen when the sign is lit. These signs may also be easier to read when it is dark out.
front-lit channel letters toronto
  • Front and backlit channel letters – some channel letters are lit both from the front and from the back. To create the desired effect these letters use two different colours of vinyl on the inner and outer parts in order to create a contrast. The end result can be quite stunning.
front and back lit channel letters
  • Unlit channel letters – lighting is not a requirement for channel letters, and you can also have storefront signage that uses unlit channel letters. These signs can also be quite striking; however, they will, of course, be less visible at night.
unlit channel letters

Push Through Signs (Push Thru Signs)

If you have a space where you can have an illuminated sign, then push through signs are a great way to capture the attention of potential customers. Push through signs are signs in which the lettering or graphics have back or side illumination.

These differ from channel letters because the lettering (or logos or graphics) are embedded into the sign. They are cut from thin acrylic and “pushed through” into the sign, and they stick out only slightly. The light, which is inside the aluminum backer panel, shines through the sign and gives the lettering a 3D effect.

push thru sign in Oakville

Push Through signs are a popular choice for storefronts, particularly in malls. They may be affixed to the building, or they may be freestanding.

Hanging Blade Signs

Classic, elegant, and nostalgic are three words that could easily be used to describe hanging blade signs. These signs may be mounted on the side of your storefront or on a freestanding post. The sign itself is mounted perpendicular to the building, which makes it a good choice for areas that have a lot of traffic.

sophisticated hanging blade sign

Although many hanging blade signs are designed to have a somewhat old-fashioned appearance, they can also look quite modern and may be either illuminated or non-illuminated.

Since a rod is necessary for mounting hanging blade signs to storefronts, many businesses choose decorative rods which become part of the overall look of the sign.

Window Signage

Most people, when they think of signage, immediately think of signs that you might see that are free-standing or posted near the top of the storefront. They often forget about the valuable real estate that they have in the storefront window itself.

A store window offers a plethora of opportunities for many types of signage. Window signs can range from discreet window decals to eye-catching posters and vinyl coverings.

The following are a few of the options available for window signage:

  • 2D and 3D Letter Decals – These easy to apply decals are extremely eye-catching and appear to jump right off the glass. 3D lettering is typically used for permanent signage displaying something like the name of the company whereas 2D lettering might be used for something more temporary such as advertising a sale or promotion.
3D window lettering
  • Graphic decals – using your storefront windows to display graphics is another way of making use of your available real estate to convey your brand. Some businesses choose to keep this to a minimum so that passersby can still view items that are inside the store while other businesses use bigger and bolder images to communicate with their customers.
window decals at Oakville Town Hall
  • Full pane window stickers – For an even bolder look, you may choose to go with full pane window stickers. These cover the entire window, which will prevent people from seeing into the store, however, they can be a good choice for many types of businesses as they allow for more space to display your message.
full pane window graphics

Outdoor Banners

If you are looking for more temporary signage for your business – or signage that you can change often – then outdoor banners are a popular and versatile choice. Outdoor banners may be affixed directly to the building, they may hang from rods, or they may come in the form of banner flags which can be erected on a patch of grass in front of your business.

vertically hanging outdoor banners

Outdoor banners are ideal storefront signage when your needs for the signage are temporary, such as advertising an event or promotion, announcing that you are hiring, etc. They are an effective and relatively inexpensive way to communicate these messages to your audience. And they can be a perfect solution when you need signage fast.

Types of outdoor banners include:

  • Attached outdoor banner
  • Hanging outdoor banner
  • Pin-up outdoor banner
  • Outdoor wrap banner
  • Handheld banners
  • Post outdoor banners
  • Pole outdoor banners
  • Fence outdoor banners
  • Outdoor flag banners

Storefront (Commercial) Awnings

Storefront awnings are unique types of signage in that they serve a dual purpose – conveying a message and store brand to your customers and providing shelter for people and inventory (if you put inventory outside).

Like other types of signage, a storefront awning has endless design possibilities in terms of fonts, colours and graphics. They are made from weather-resistant material (usually painted Sunbrella fabric or vinyl) that resists damage from UV rays, rain, etc.

You will commonly see commercial awnings in areas that get a lot of pedestrian traffic. These awnings provide a nice spot for potential customers to take shelter from the sun and rain. As they pause for a rest under your awning, there is a good chance they will window shop and possibly even come into the store itself.

commercial awning

Some commercial awnings are retractable, while others are stationary. When an awning’s primary purpose is for use as signage, it is usually stationary. When its main purpose is for shelter – such as to provide shade to customers at a café or restaurant, the awning is usually retractable.

Considerations for Designing Your Storefront Sign

Once you decide on the type of sign that is most appropriate for your storefront, the sign itself will have to be designed. At About Signs, we have experts that can help you with this; however, it is a good idea to have an understanding of some sign design basics.

Factors that you’ll want to consider are:

  • Brand consistency – A good brand will use colours, fonts, and graphics that are consistent. When you consider major brands such as Tim Hortons or McDonald’s, they always use consistent elements in their signage. Staying consistent will help your brand to become more recognizable by your customers.
  • Content – Having the right content on your storefront sign is also key. Of course, you should have your business name in large, easy to read font, but you may also want to include a graphic or tagline.
  • Size – you want to make sure that no matter what type of signage you choose, that it will be large enough for your customers to read. You must also keep in mind, however, that the larger your sign is, the more it will cost. You must also take into account any zoning or rental restrictions that will limit the size and types of signs that you are allowed to have on your building.

Would you like more help in selecting and designing a storefront sign for your business? If so, contact the team at About Signs today.