How is the Size of Signs Measured?

The most common restriction in sign codes concerns the size of signs. This includes such considerations as the “setback,” (distance away from the road), the height and the dimensions of the sign itself. When the sign is a rectangle, and the copy fills it,  it’s easy — height x width. A 4 x 6-foot sign is 24 square feet.

But what if the sign is an irregular shape, or if the copy only fills a fraction of the sign face? What if the sign is individual channel letters on a wall? What if a backlit awning includes a logo? In all of these situations, do you measure the entire polygon, or just the portion that includes a logo or text?

What if the letters include upper- and lower-case letters, which means ascenders and descenders? Do you measure a rectangle around this “irregular” shape?

If the sign code establishes relatively small maximum sizes for signs, and measures all signs as rectangles, does this curtail creativity in design, because the merchant feels compelled to make the necessary letters as large as possible in order to achieve maximum visibility? Does this discourage round, triangular, oval and other shapes of signs?


Wade Swormstedt

Wade Swormstedt

Wade is the former Executive Director of the Foundation for the Advancement of the Sign Industry and the former Editor and Publisher of Signs of the Times magazine.

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