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Glossary of Terms



Sandblasting: A method for decorating glass or wood. A stencil of the artwork is either hand- or computer-cut and applied to the substrate.  The substrate is then sprayed with a pressurized stream of sand or synthetic particles to texture the unprotected area until the desired material has been removed.
Sandwich 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 sidewalk sign or a-frame sign)
Sans serif: Any typeface that lacks serifs or small embellishments finishing off the strokes of letters. In most sans serif fonts, there is little differentiation between the widths of strokes within the letter. Helvetica and Arial are very popular sans serif fonts.
Scanner:  An optical device that senses different levels of reflection of light and translates that information into numeric formulas that can be read and manipulated by a computer and replicated on a screen or printed.
Schematic design: A conceptual design developed at the beginning of a project which demonstrates an overall design strategy.
Scoring: Cutting or notching a material prior to bending it. Sufficient scoring of some substrates will also allow them to be broken cleanly without cutting them all the way through.
Screen: A frame over which fabric is stretched for use in screen printing. The screen supports the stencil or emulsion through which the ink is forced by the squeegee, created the print.
Screen printing: A method of printing great detail and colour on a variety of substrates such as paper, plastics, aluminum, vinyl and banner materials using a squeegee to force ink through a screen. (See also silkscreening.)
Seam: A line formed by the joining together of two separate pieces of the same or different materials at their edges.
Second-surface: Refers to a sign made of a clear substrate, such as acrylic, where the art is applied in reverse on what can be an interior face of the sign, providing extra protection from the environment.   This technique is also used for sign faces that are handled on a regular basis.
Serif: A small line or embellishment finishing off the strokes of letters in some fonts. A very popular serif font is Times Roman.
Service: The general maintenance of a sign. It can include cleaning, repainting, replacement of bulbs or lamps and repairs, which may be performed on a regular basis.
Service cover: A door or panel in an electric sign cabinet that allows ready access to the lamps, ballasts and the electrical connections for inspection, maintenance, and repair. (See also access door.)
Setback: In a sign or development code, the distance between the primary face of the sign and the property line or right of way. The distance is measured in a straight line from the base/bottom of the sign. Most municipalities require that signs meet a minimum setback or that a variance from the code be applied for and granted.
Shade: A colour made darker than the original by adding black to it.
Shadow: Duplication of an image that is slightly offset. Drop shadow is a simple copy and offset; block shadow joins the outlines of the original and duplicate to create a 3D-relief effect; and cast shadow alters the shape and size of the duplicate to imitate shadows cast from varied light placement.
Sheet metal: Generally refers to aluminum or steel in sheet format used as sign substrates or sign frames.
Shop drawings: Drawings that describe the quantity, shape, size, materials of a product's construction together with the assembly sequence. Shop drawings are usually approved by the designer to ensure that the original design concept is accurately carried out in the construction process.
Sidewalk 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 a-frame sign)
Sign: Any device, display or structure which is displayed to attract the attention of the public for the purposes of advertising, identifying or communicating information about products and services.
Sign cabinet: The enclosure of an electric sign, not including the components and mounting structure. (See also box sign and light box.)
Sign code: A sign code is typically part of a municipal government’s planning and land use regulations.   The code usually regulates size, placement, illumination, structure and appearance of signs.
Sign face: Typically refers to the visible message area of a sign. (Also called face)
Sign face area: Refers to the total area of all sign faces on one sign structure.
Sign location map: Usually a site plan or building plan indicating where signs will be placed.
Signage: Generic term used to describe signs.
Silhouette: The overall shape or profile of a sign.
Silkscreening: One of the original and simplest forms of printing where a squeegee is used to force ink through a stencil or emulsion that is supported by fabric that has been stretched over a frame to create a screen. Originally silk was used but has been replaced by synthetic fabrics. (See also screen printing.)
Single face sign: A sign consisting of one face, rather than back-to-back or multi faced signs.
Skeleton: The metal frame on which a sign is installed.
Slip-base: Foundation consisting of two bolts fastened between the foundation plate and the concrete footer.
Snipe sign: An overlay sign added to an existing sign layout, with an additional message to the main sign, for example a band across a corner saying "now open."
Soda-lime glass: The most common type of glass manufactured and the type used in most fluorescent tubes and incandescent bulbs. Soda-lime glass is made from a combination of sand, limestone, and sodium carbonate, and can either be clear or coloured.
Solvent: A petroleum-based liquid used to modify oil-based pains, inks and materials.  Solvents are also used in some cleaning processes.  Great care should be exercised using and handling solvents as they are generally hazardous to health and the environment.
Spacer: A device used in mounting letters or signs that separates them from the surface to which they are being installed. Spacers allow letters to be pinned out.
Specifications: Usually defines the requirements, materials, construction and appearance of signs and other structures.
Spectacular: An extra large outdoor sign or interior sales display that incorporates special lighting and/or motion effects.
Spinner sign: A freestanding or wall-mounted sign, where the messages rotate in the wind. A spinner sign is not considered an animated sign.
Spotlight: A source of focused illumination for an externally illuminated sign.
Sputtering: The erosion of the electrodes in a neon tube due to heat and electrical current.  This causes a blackening of the tube ends and a reduction in gas pressure, eventually making the tube inoperative.
Squeegee: In sign making, a hard plastic or nylon blade used to apply pressure to increase surface adhesion between cut vinyl and the transfer tape or between the vinyl and the sign face.  In screen printing, a flexible blade used to force ink through a stencil mounted on the screen.
Stainless steel: A special steel alloy that resists staining or corrosion due to higher concentrations of chromium and nickel.
Stand-offs: Insulators that support a neon tube, as well as hold it away from the background surface and provide some impact resistance. (See also supports).
Standard frame: The structural supports found inside a sign cabinet.
Star of life: A six sided star symbol used in elevator signage to indicate preferred route for gurney, emergency egress use, etc. as dictated by ADA regulations.
Stencil: A thin sheet of material into which a design is cut. The stencil is placed over a substrate to control the application of paint, ink or abrasive material and cause the image represented by the cut-out portion of the stencil to be transferred onto the substrate.
Stochastic screening: A silkscreening process that conveys the tone of a screened image by varying the number and location of dots rather than just varying the size of the dots within the grid.
Stone signs: Typically sandstone, granite, marble, limestone and other common decorative stone material. Letters can be mounted to stone or they can be carved into the face of the stone.
Streamer: A long, narrow banner included in interior or window displays only.
Street furniture: Advertising displays, which generally provide a public amenity and are located to provide viewing for both pedestrians and vehicle occupants.  (See also bench sign.)
Stretching: The stretching of vinyl face material over a flex-face sign cabinet.
Stroke: Refers to a single pass of the squeegee in screen printing or a pass of the brush in painting.
Stroke width: The width of the major lines comprising a letterform. A wider stroke width is used to make a bolder letter; a narrower stroke width is used to make a lighter letter.
Structure: A fabrication designed for and capable of supporting a sign.
Styrene: An abbreviation for polystyrene, a rigid plastic that can be molded into objects, used in the manufacture of signs.
Substrate: A flat-stock or roll-stock material from which a sign face is made. Examples of sign substrates include wood, metal sheeting, paper and many type of plastics.
Supports: Insulators that support a neon tube and hold it away from surrounding surfaces and provide some impact resistance. (See also stand-offs.)
Symmetry: The balance of design elements in which one side equals or mirrors the other.