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Glossary of Terms


Back-to-back sign: A sign having two faces mounted in opposite directions. Pole signs and a–frame signs typically have back-to-back faces. (Also called a double-faced sign.)
Background panel: A sign panel to which text or graphical elements are affixed.
Backlit awning: An awning sign that is lit from underneath the awning. The light shines through the awning fabric, illuminating whatever text or graphics are on it and providing effective nighttime readability. (Also called illuminated awning. See also awning sign and canopy sign.)
Backlit sign: A sign where the sign face is illuminated from behind. (Also called illuminated sign. See also internally illuminated sign and exterior illuminated sign.)
Ballast: A fluorescent light fixture component, which provides sufficient starting voltage for the lamp. Ballast also controls the amount of power to the lamp once it is operating.
Banding: The appearance of solid bands or patterns of visibly distinct colours within what should otherwise be a continuous colour gradation. Banding can be caused by several factors, including low resolution artwork, a poor quality scan of the original artwork or improper calibration or cleaning of the printer used.
Banner: A sign made of non rigid material such as canvas or vinyl, and typically having no enclosing or supporting framework. Often intended for temporary use, a banner sign can be digitally printed or use cut vinyl letters and graphics.  Banners are commonly hung from a pole, mounted to the facade of a building or attached to a fence. (See also flag and pennant.)
Banner stand:  A portable retractable stand used to temporarily display a vertical banner.  Banner stands fold down to a very small size and are generally supplied with a carrying case to facilitate transportation.  They are very commonly used at trade shows and for temporary displays.
Base plate: A flat piece of metal welded to the bottom of a sign support structure and then anchored with bolts to the concrete foundation or other mounting substructure.
Bench sign: A sign mounted onto, or incorporated into a seat in a public area such as a bus stop bench. (See also street furniture.)
Bid package: Documents produced by a prospective customer that state the requirements and conditions of the project under bid. These documents communicate such details as specification, design intent, desired materials, installation requirements and other project specifics. They also include standardized bidding forms and bidding instructions
Billboard: A large outdoor sign used for advertising and typically seen along highways, main streets and other high traffic areas. Typically the billboard owner will rent the billboard for a set period of time to clients to display their advertisement.
Bitmapped: Describing when arranged pixels comprising a graphic or an image become visible/detectible by the human eye. When incompatible image file formats are imported, often the graphic will appear bitmapped with squared-off pixels resulting in jagged edge effect on perimeter of line art or loss of resolution on images.  (See also jaggies.)
Blackout: A specially formulated paint or coating for use on electric signs to block light emission where needed, for example between letters in a neon sign. (Also called blockout.)
Blade sign: A type of projecting sign that is attached to a building but extends beyond the building structure usually at a right angle to the building itself and is almost always double faced. (Also called projecting sign)
Blank: An uninstalled sign panel with no lettering or graphics applied. (Also called an insert.)
Bleed: In screen printing, the term refers to the portion of a printed image or graphic which extends beyond the intended borders of a sign and the excess portion is trimmed away.
Blind fasteners: Fasteners used to mount signs to walls and others surfaces while remaining hidden from view. (Also called concealed fasteners.)
Blistering: The appearance of bumps and bubbles on a surface covered with vinyl material or paint.  It is the result of the coating or material losing adhesion and separating from the substrate.
Block colour: An area of solid colour having no gradation.
Blockout: A specially formulated paint or coating for use on electric signs to block light emission where needed, for example between letters in a neon sign. (Also called blackout.)
Border: A line or band of colour or material that defines the outer edges of a sign and/or elements within the sign.
Box sign: A sign that is self enclosed in a typically square or rectangular structure with or without internal lighting. Can be single- or double-faced. (See also light box.)
Braille: A system of small raised dots that represent the alphabet, punctuation and numbers for the visually impaired. Braille signage is required in certain applications.
Braille beads: Small plastic or metal beads that can be placed in the face of a sign to create informational Braille text.
Brand equity: The value a customer places on a branded product or service. (See also branding.)
Branding: The process of creating a unique, positive and recognizable identity for a product or service. Along with marketing and advertising, creating a visual identity through signage is a very important part of the branding exercise. (See also brand equity.)
Breakaway foundation: A type of sign foundation or base that allows a sign pole or other attached support structure to break away cleanly if struck by a motor vehicle, thereby reducing the force of impact to the occupants of the vehicle. These are required by law in many areas. (Also called a frangible sign mount.)
Breaking strength: The maximum load a material can withstand before it breaks. (Also called tensile strength.)
Brightness: The perceived amount of light that a visual target emits or reflects. Brightness is one of the three attributes of colour along with hue and saturation.
Bronze: A very strong and durable metal alloy made of copper and tin with traces of other metals such as nickel and zinc.
Brushed finish: A textured, non-reflective polished finish applied to metal by lightly brushing the surface with an abrasive material or applying a mildly corrosive liquid.
Buff: To polish a metal surface by rubbing it with a slightly abrasive compound.
Building code: Regulations issued by provincial and municipal governments that establish standards for the construction, modification and repair of buildings and other structures in the interest of public health and safety.
Building mounted sign: Any sign that is applied or attached to a building in some manner. These are typically attached parallel to an exterior wall of a building and usually project less than 18 inches from the building.  Municipal regulations typically limit the size of a wall sign to a specific percentage of the wall area.  Building signs can be more difficult to read from a passing motor vehicle and as a result, the lettering on a building sign has to be fairly large and the sign itself cannot usually contain a lot of copy.
Built-up letter: A lettering technique in which the outline of the letter is made first and then filled in.
Bulletin colours: A type of quick drying, fade resistant enamel paint commonly used by sign painters for hand lettering.
Burn-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 age in)
Burnish: To polish by friction using a non- abrasive material.
Butt joint: The type of joint formed when two pieces of material join together flush and edge-to-edge.