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Answering the Call from Sign Haters

Make no mistake about it; there are some people who simply do not like signs - some, in fact, actually hate them. If you have been in the industry for even a relatively short time, we've encountered them - usually, and unfortunately, as part of a local committee to regulate signs.

By Andrew Bertucci, Executive Directory, United States Sign Council

Fortunately, for all of us in the greater society, these folks are few and far between.

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  • On-premise signs, of course, represent the face of successful enterprise right out on the street, dispensing vital information about all sorts of businesses, institutions, and service providers to each passerby, in a manner that no other form of communication can match. In terms of advertising value, on-premise signs are unsurpassed - providing their users with the ability to attract customers or patrons for an almost incredibly lower cost than any other form of advertising - and, they do it right at the point of sale, which is the only place at which an advertising message can be acted upon instantly.

    Additionally, when allowed to be of the proper size and design, they provide a level of communication to motorists in high speed traffic environments than can actually improve traffic safety!

    The Naysayers
    Still, there are detractors, and all too frequently their voices of protest to this advantageous medium which we provide to society are raised against it. Although it is difficult to ascertain the motivation of an anti-sign advocate, there are some common objections which are frequently raised. Most of us, particularly those of us who work with sign zoning regulation all the time, have heard them all:

    "Signs are unnecessary, because everybody already knows where everything is located… Signs are ugly and garish and need to be removed because they are a nuisance… Signs are simply too big or too high, and not in "human scale"… Signs clutter the environment, and are a form of "visual pollution"… Illuminated signs, in particular, are bad because their light destroys a view of the starry sky." And on and on…

    Interestingly, as we examine the anti sign rhetoric, we observe that it is predominately negative, and reflects an essentially pessimistic view of modern society. There is frequently a call for a return to the past, when signs were hand-crafted, non-illuminated, and low to the ground. It is a denial of 21st century technology in the guise of environmental improvement, and should be understood for what it is - an uninformed and emotional rejection of the advances of modernity.

    Of course, there are times when hand-crafted, non-illuminated, and low ground signs are perfectly suitable, and, in fact, should be used to satisfy particular marketing and visibility parameters. Only qualified and experienced sign designers can make this judgment, however, and predictable problems arise when a community limits all signs to only these few conditions. In the end, any community that seriously restricts your ability to design and produce the type of sign you deem necessary to do the best job for your customer has fallen for the tired arguments of the sign detractors and impaired its ability to provide a dramatic, informational, and safe environment for its citizens and visitors.

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    How do you counter this problem if you are confronted with it? Well, you can put up with it, and do the best you can to address it, or you can use the incredible resources of the United States Sign Council to provide the answer!

    It really is as simple as that, and it is just another advantage enjoyed by USSC members. USSC has already published eleven separate scientific studies specifically aimed at countering anti-sign attitudes, and at promoting the proper size, height, and design of on-premise signs. In addition, USSC has a wide array of other relevant literature and marketing aids, all designed to counter anti-sign attitudes. A prime example of this USSC influence for positive action is the acceptance and use of the USSC Guideline Sign Code by the International Code Council, which is the source for virtually all the building codes in the United States.

    But the job is far from done, because anti-sign attitudes persist. That's why you can be sure that the USSC, through its academic research and marketing programs, will continue to lead the way in demonstrating that the work of the sign industry is vital to our modern way of life.

    Full information on USSC membership is available at It pays to belong!

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