Functions of a sign

In general, signs perform the following functions: 

  • Information-provision: signs conveying information about services and facilities, such as maps, directories, instructional signs or interpretive signage used in museums, galleries, zoological gardens, parks and gardens, exhibitions, tourist and cultural attractions that enhance the customer’s experience.A relevant example will be the directional signs that are all over the Alipur Zoo. 
  • Persuasion: promotional signage designed to persuade users of the virtues of a company, product or brand. 
  • Direction/ Navigation: signs demonstrating the location of services, facilities, functional spaces and key areas, such as signposts or directional arrows. 
  • Identification: signs indicating services and facilities, such as room names and numbers, restroom signs, or floor designations. 
  • Safety and Regulatory: signs giving warning or safety instructions, such as warning signstraffic signsexit signs, signs indicating what to do in an emergency or natural disaster or signs conveying rules and’ In case of fire, break Glass’, a  commonplace sign outside a fire alarm, ‘to stop a train, pull chain’, etc. 

Signage conventions

Pictograms are images commonly used to express the message of a sign. In conventional signage, pictograms follow specific sets of color, shape and sizing codes based on the laws of the country in which the signage is being displayed. For example, In UK and EU signage, the width of a sign’s pictogram must be 80% the height of the area it is printed to. In the US, in order to obey the ADA Accessibility Guidelines, the same pictogram must be located within its own defined field, with raised characters and braille located beneath the field. 

For a pictogram to fulfill its purpose,  it must be comprehensible across cultures and languages, even if there is no text present. Following universal color and shape conventions increases the likelihood that the pictogram and sign will be understood by all, irrespective of race, culture, or nationality. 

Sign shape:

The shape of a sign can help to convey its message. The shape can be brand- or design-based or can be part of a set of signage conventions used to standardize sign meaning. Usage of particular shapes may vary by country and culture. 

Some common  signage shape modules are as follows: 

  • Rectangular signs are often used to portray general information to an audience, like the direction-based signs in an airport, eg. ‘terminal is to the left’. 
  • Circular signs often represent an instruction that must be obeyed, either mandatory or prohibitive, for example, the fact that smoking is prohibited within a building is often informed through a circular sign. 
  • Triangular signs are often warning signs, used to convey danger or caution.A relevant example will be traffic signs like ‘No U-turn’ or ‘Speed below 60kph’. 

Sign technology:

Technology plays a key role in the muddling world of signs.The material, processes and technical innovations that go into the making of a sign are listed below: 

Materials: The common materials used in sign-making shops are Acrylic, Aluminium composite panel, Corrugated plastic, High-density polyethylene, Polypropylenepolystyrene, and other thermoplastics 

The most common processes that sign-making companies employ are CNC routing, Laser cutting, Abrasive blasting, Vacuum forming, Steam welding, Channel Lettering Sign Virginia, etc. 


Signs frequently use lighting as a means of increasing they’re visibly and to better attract the attention of a customer. 

Neon signs are produced by the craft of bending glass tubing into shapes. Lightemitting diode (LED) technology is frequently used in signs. This technology, first used primarily at sporting events like the Olympics and The World Cup,  later appeared at businesses, churches, schools, and government buildings.

History of Commercial Signage

The history of signage dates back to when man first figured out a way to express himself artistically. From the symbolic cave paintings of early human existence to the modern digital city that is New York, signs and symbols have always been used to communicate feelings, capture moments or advertise goods and services. 

What we typically associate with modern signage could be traced back to around the time of the Greeks and Romans. Usually made of stone or terracotta, these signs used imagery more than text since many people were illiterate during this time.Early Christians used the cross to establish places to meet, while pagans used symbols like the sun, moon, rose, and thunder. 

After the Dark Ages ended and commerce expanded, the need for signs grew dramatically. In 1389, King Richard III of England passed a law that any establishment that sold ale must place a sign out in front of its building. At first, these “trade” signs were fairly need-based, but soon signs where showing up with logos that included lions, dragons, shields and other popular symbols of the day. In order to keep pace with competitors, businesses realized that their signs needed to become more catchy. 

As the population began to accumulate in cities, signs actually became a danger. Roads in urban areas were small and crowded with people, street vendors, animals, and carts. Ordinances were established to control the size and placement of signs. In the 1700’s, both London and Paris introduced laws that forced signs to be removed or fixed flat against the wall. 

It wasn’t until the 18th century that new technologies like gas lighting, the industrial printing press and electricity began to shape modern signage. It’s at this point that businesses and artisans had even more options when creating signs and they began to realize how creativity played a role in attracting customers. 

Several developments in the early 20th century provided the impetus for widespread commercial adoption of exterior signage.In the 1920s, the newly developed neon sign was introduced to the United States. Its flexibility and visibility led to the widespread commercial adoption and by the 1930s, neon signs were a standard feature of modern buildings all around the world.

Introduction Commercial Signage

Signage is the practice of the use of signs and symbols to communicate a specific message to a particular target-audience, for the underlying purpose of mass-marketing or recommendation. The concept attained popularity around the 70s and is an absolutely indispensable tool in today’s globalized consumerism.that has been built on the foundation of advertising.

Signs are any kind of visual graphics created to display information to a specific target- audience. This is inherent in the form of ‘wayfinding’ information in places such as streets or alleyways or on the inside and outside buildings. Signs vary in form and size based on location and intent, as also on budget and outreach, from more expansive, and expensive, banners, billboards, and murals, to smaller street signs, street name signs, sandwich boards and lawn signs. Signs may also use digital or electronic displays to augment their ability to induce audiences to the desired goal.

The chief function of signs is to communicate, to convey information designed to aid the receiver in decision-making based on the information provided.Often it ensures that the subject does not get lost and is able to reach for the exact service he wishes to peruse. Promotional signage may also be connived to convince receivers of the virtues of a given product or service. Signage is different from ‘labeling  in the aspect that while the former only conveys information about a particular product or service, the latter, while performing that function too, also endeavors to persuade the customer towards using that particular product/brand/outlet.

Signage is a crucial component of any successful business.  Both the indoor and outdoor signs of a marketing entity are a direct reflection of what it is as a brand and how it is regarded by its customers. Without signage, most of the target audience wouldn’t even know that a brand exists.

Origin of the terms ‘ sign’ and ‘signage’:

The word  ‘sign’ comes from the old French word ‘signe’ that refers to a gesticulation of the hand. This, in turn, sprouts from the  Latin word  ‘signum’ indicating an “identifying mark, token, indication, symbol; proof; military standard, ensign; a signal, an omen; sign in the heavens, constellation.” In English, the term is also associated with a flag or insignia. In France, a banner often replaced signs and signboards in the Middle Ages. Signs are most commonly observed in the form of painted or carved advertisements for retail stores, restaurants, movie theatres, etc. They are one of the most effective methods for drawing the attention of the public to the entity which they refer to.

The term, ‘signage’ has been widely used in the 20th century as a collective noun used to describe a class of signs, especially advertising and promotional signs that were absolutely crucial to capture the customer’s attention in the consumer-driven world of the 20th Century.