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Glossary of Terms


Abatement: Related to signage, it is the removal or correction of a sign does not meet a municipal sign code or standard.
Abrasion resistance: The ability of a given surface to resist scratching or scuffing due to contact or friction with another material. It is a measure of durability.
Abrasive method: Acid-etching or sandblasting to alter the surface of a material. The material or substrate is first masked and a graphic is carved or incised in the exposed substrate by this method.
Access door: A door or panel that provides access to the interior of a sign allowing for the inspection, maintenance and repair of the internal components of the sign.  (See also service cover.)
Acetate: A thin, clear plastic material that is both flexible and strong. Available in both gloss and matte finishes, it is receptive to ink, and is popular as a substrate for point-of-purchase advertising signs.
Achromatic: Designating colour perceived to have zero saturation and therefore no hue, such as neutral grays, white, or black.
Acrylic: Generic term for a type of durable plastic commonly used in sign making. Noted for its excellent clarity, acrylic can also be manufactured in a wide range of transparent and opaque colours. Its ability to be easily machined, shaped and painted explains acrylic's popularity. Plexiglas® is a well-known commercial brand of the material.
ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act):  Legislation enacted by the US federal government to remove barriers in the environment that limit any individual’s ability to function in the physical environment. It includes specific sign regulations.
Additive colours: Red, green and blue are the three additive colours of light. All other colours of light are created by combinations of these three. If the three additive colours come together in equal proportions, the resulting light is white.
Adhesion: The force that holds the surface of one material to another. The strength of adhesion is affected by the type and condition of the surfaces in question and the adhesive used. Generally the surfaces need to be clean and porous enough to allow for a certain amount of penetration by the adhesive.
Adhesive: A material or substance able to bind and hold two surfaces together. Examples include glue, epoxy and tape.
Adobe® Reader®: Popular software package used for viewing and printing Portable Document Format (PDF) files. The advantage of a PDF file is that it allows anyone to view and print a document as it was originally intended without having to install the program or fonts used to create the file. Adobe Reader is a product of Adobe Systems®, Inc.
Adobe® Illustrator®:  Software package that enables graphic designers to create and edit vector graphics.  Vector graphics refers to artwork that is based on mathematically defined line and /or curve segments between coordinate points.  Vector graphics are fully scalable.
Adobe® Photoshop®: A family of software packages that graphic designers use to create and edit raster graphics and digital photographs. 
Aesthetics: The general perception of a sign's artistic merit or beauty, both on its own and in relation to its surroundings. The design, construction, materials and colours of a sign all factor into its aesthetic appeal.
A-frame sign: A moveable sign not secured or attached to the surface where it is located, but supported by its own frame and most often forming the cross-sectional shape of an A. (Also known as sandwich sign or  sidewalk sign.)
Age in: The initial time a new neon light must run before it is able to achieve full brightness. The amount of time this takes can vary widely. (Also called burn-in)
Airbrush: A handheld painting device that uses compressed air to generate a fine spray of paint. Airbrushes can be fitted with a variety of nozzles for different effects and levels of detail.
Aluminum: A lightweight metal material commonly used in sign panels, frames and poles. It is strong and durable in relation to its weight, and is resistant to rust and corrosion.
Ambient light: The sum of all non-directional light in a given area emitted by all sources at a given time.  A high level of ambient light can impact a sign's readability, and should be a consideration in a sign's design. Outdoor sunlight generates a high level of ambient light.
Anchor: In general, any device that connects and secures one object to another. An example would be the devices used to secure awnings and fascia signs to facades.
Animated sign: A sign that uses the sequential switching on and off of graphically arranged light sources to create the illusion of movement.
Annual ADT (annual average daily traffic): The average number of vehicles passing a given location each day over the course of a year.
Anodized finish: A thin aluminum oxide coating applied electrochemically to the surface of a metal object. The coating hardens, protects and enhances the appearance of the object. Anodized finishes can be created in a variety of colours.
Applique: A graphic element made separately then affixed to a cloth or fabric covering such as an awning.
Approach: The distance at which a sign becomes readable to a viewer to the point where the sign is no longer readable as the viewer passes by.
Approach sign: A sign indicating the approach of a specific destination such as a highway, street intersection, or building entrance. It is different to a directional sign in that it announces a single destination.
Architectural signage: A term used to describe signage in a built environment that has the purpose of providing wayfinding or other site specific information.
Argon: An inert gas used in fluorescent lamps and neon tubes.
Artwork: All logos, graphics and images used in creating a sign. (See also copy.)
Aspect ratio: The width-to-height ratio of an image.

Awning sign: A projecting sign made of non rigid material such as heavy canvas supported by a framework that is attached to the wall of a building. The awning sign extends outward from the building and provides shaded cover and protection from weather for customers and pedestrians. An awning sign will have lettering and/or graphics painted or screen printed on its exterior surface. It may or may not be illuminated. (See also backlit awning and canopy sign.)