Sign Guidelines – By Type - City of Charlottetown

city.charlottetown.pe.ca

Sign Guidelines – By Type - City of Charlottetown

GUIDELINES

for

CITY SIGNAGE

in Charlottetown

Prince Edward Island


Compiled and written by:

Tom Ward

Restoration Technologist

Main Street Co-ordinator

For:

The City of Charlottetown

Planning Department

1992

Acknowledgement:

Thanks are due to Alison Ward for editing this document.

All drawings and photographs by T. Ward unless otherwise noted.

COVER PHOTOGRAPH: PUBLIC ARCHIVES OF PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND


It is my privilege as Chairman of the Town Planning Advisory

Board to endorse this booklet on Signage Guidelines for the City

of Charlottetown.

I would like to acknowledge the efforts of the staff of the Planning

Department in the City of Charlottetown and in particular Mr.

Tom Ward in putting together this document.

It is my hope that the contents of this booklet will be of assistance

to you as you consider signage for your business. If you require

any further assistance regarding your development please feel

free to contact the staff of the Planning Department. We are here

to help ensure your development and signage is of credit to you

and the City of Charlottetown.

Clifford J. Lee

Chairman

Town Planning Advisory Board


Contents

QUALITY – A CHARLOTTETOWN TRADITION.................................................................... 3

Sign Legislation and Guidelines .................................................................................................. 4

Charlottetown Signs – Past and Present..................................................................................... 5

Effective Signs................................................................................................................................... 7

GENERAL GUIDELINES – EFFECTIVE SIGN DESIGN PRINCIPLES.............................. 8

I. Simplicity of Content...................................................................................................... 8

II. Scale and Location........................................................................................................... 9

III. Legibility............................................................................................................................ 10

IV. Colour and Contrast........................................................................................................ 10

V. Compatibility.................................................................................................................... 11

VI. Sign Illumination ............................................................................................................. 11

Guidelines For Sign Illumination ......................................................................... 12

SIGN GUIDELINES – BY TYPE.................................................................................................... 13

I. Wall Signs and Storefront Signs................................................................................... 13

II. Projecting Signs................................................................................................................ 17

– Banners and Flags .................................................................................................... 19

III. Window Signs................................................................................................................... 19

IV. Architectural Signs.......................................................................................................... 21

V. Awnings ............................................................................................................................. 22

VI. Directory Signs or Multiple Occupancy Signs.......................................................... 25

VII. Free Standing Signs ........................................................................................................ 26

– Display Easels............................................................................................................ 26

– Free Standing Ground Signs – Highway Commercial..................................... 27

BIBLIOGRAPHY .............................................................................................................................. 29


Quality –

A Charlottetown Tradition

Since its founding in the late 18th Century, Charlottetown has been a city carefully planned.

The additions to the built environment, both private and public, are of the highest quality

and for this reason much survives. The development of this legacy continues to reflect the

hopes and aspirations of Islanders. While Charlottetown remains a heritage town and

benefits from its unique historical perspective, certain challenges must be accepted with

this inheritance. Specifically, we must become caretakers of our heritage and make only

those additions that respect and match the quality that now exists.

A vital component of this integrated environment are signs, their appropriateness, and

their effectiveness in serving the needs of business, while making a positive contribution

to the community.

PUBLIC ARCHIVES OF PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND


Sign Legislation and Guidelines

In response to the increasing number of inappropriate signs,

the City of Charlottetown has adopted regulations to control

the size, placement, and quality of those on private property.

The intent of this legislation is neither to restrict nor encumber

individual business. Rather, it is to address the problem of visual

clutter to the benefit of the business community, residents, and

visitors alike.

The City of Charlottetown is keenly aware that private businesses

are the mainstay of the community’s economic health, however,

Charlottetown’s assets as a provincial capital, as the Birthplace

of Confederation and as an historic city must also be recognized

as vital components for a strong economy. Quality signs,

respecting the historic nature of the city, must be encouraged

in order to reach an effective middle ground.

These sign guidelines have been produced as an educational

tool to strike a balance and set in motion a design process in

which all can benefit.


Charlottetown Signs –

Past and Present

At the beginning of the 20th Century, Charlottetown experienced a relatively

slow development. Change did occur, though, sometimes as a result of a shift

of design ideas, other times due to devastating fire. Signs proliferated during

this period, perhaps to excess. Due to the skills of talented craftsmen and the

simplicity of the materials, however, they were executed with imagination and

were crafted in scale with the buildings. Further, they complimented

contemporary architectural styles and rarely overpowered or covered building

detail.

During the 1950’s and 1960’s there was an attempt to “modernize” business

images. Decorative architectural details were often removed or masked. In

some cases, entire three-storey facades were covered with uniform panels,

essentially forming backgrounds for oversized signs. Analysis of this shift of

ideas concerning design, integrity and respect of tradition is left to others.

Three factors, however, should be considered as influences to change. These

are: a response to the automobile, the availability of new mass-produced

synthetic materials, and the provision of standards signs by national franchises.

Local businesses responded and competed with sign standards and ideas set

by corporations in other cities.

Sign Wars” had begun. One extreme is the visual clutter seen on streets such

as University Avenue and commercial strip developments elsewhere in Canada.

Another is inappropriate, over-sized back-lit signs found on historic buildings

downtown. No argument can rightly suggest that this is truly effective business

promotion. At best, it is merely fierce competition with identical approaches.


How do we recapture a philosophy and practice of appropriate

quality sign and promotion techniques? The solution will not be

an easy one but it lies in the recognition that our built legacy is a

neglected asset and by a response with additions to the environment

that respect and match the quality of these assets. This concept

has gained favour in recent years with the observed success of the

Heritage Review Board, the Town Planning Department, the

Heritage Canada Main Street Programme and the viability of other

historic towns in Canada and the U.S.

It is up to individual businesses in Charlottetown to challenge and

encourage the creative talents of our designers and sign makers.

Businesses must also be receptive to the concept that a quality

sign system, integrated with the building and the potential of the

area, is effective in drawing customers. Quality signs must also

become a well planned component of a business set-up budget.

At present, signs seem to be an afterthought, and because of this

we often see cheap and quick sign choices. These usually take the

form of standard back-lit plastics units which have no regard for

architecture, streetscape, or business image.


Effective Signs

The economic health of any commercial district depends upon many factors. The price, variety,

and quality of the goods and services offered are critical, but underlying the success of these is

the physical appearance of the area. First impressions have lasting influence. It is important that

commercial areas present a positive and appealing image to customers, visitors, and investors.

A retail sign conveys many messages, the most basic of which are the obvious details concerning

name and location. The other messages are more abstract but perhaps as important; ideas such

as quality, style, tradition, permanence, reliability and pride.

The combination of many signs in a district helps create an atmosphere for the streetscape. When

signs are erected without concern for neighbouring businesses, or when they compete for attention,

the result is chaotic and negative. Conversely, well design signs are enhance the unique and

inviting image of an area.

Just as the vitality created by well designed signs is lost when a commercial area is overrun by

those made of a limited number of materials, visual sterility resulting from too many restrictions

can also reduce the appeal of an area.

Ideally, signs in a successful

commercial district will respect the

contribution of architecture, fit with

neighbouring signs, and appreciate a

rich diversity of quality materials and

designs.

PHOTO: CITY OF CHARLOTTETOWN


General Guidelines

Effective Sign Design Principles

The effectiveness of a sign is determined by the following factors. In every case the

sign should meet the promotion and identification needs of the business while

enhancing the building on which it is placed and the streetscape of which it is a part.

I. Simplicity of Content

The name of a business should be the only message on a principal sign. A simple

message, arrangement, and color scheme are critical for a truly effective sign.

An attempt to insert too much information will defeat the purpose and result

in illegible clutter. Sometimes a simple effigy or symbol is all that is required.

If additional product or services information display area is required it can be

placed on secondary signs in discreet locations such as front doors, kick plate

panels, or display windows.

PRINCIPAL AND

SECONDARY SIGNS

Simplicity of Content

1. Principal Signs

- business name only.

2. Projecting Sign - effigy

3. Secondary Signs

- window signs relate

- additional information


II. Scale and Location

Since each building is different, each sign should be designed individually to fit within the

context and character of the building. This is one reason why “off-the-shelf” back-lit signs

or those provided by parent companies are generally inappropriate.

Almost every building facade has at least one logical location for signs. Flat surfaces,

uninterrupted by decoration and openings, are obvious places. If no such surface exists for

a flush-mounted sign, the a projecting sign may be warranted.

Clues for appropriate sign size can also be found by analyzing the original building and its

component locations provided for signs. Of course, this does not apply to buildings substantially

changed with the addition of large flat surfaces.

SCALE AND

LOCATION

Signs should be placed

in logical flat areas,

centred between

architectural elements

and with sufficient wall

space around the sign

so that it appears in

scale.

PHOTO: CITY OF CHARLOTTETOWN


III. Legibility

Simple and clear type are most effective as they are quickly read. Capital letters convey a

strong business-like message. A combination of capitals and lower case letters provide a less

formal impression.

Letter size will also affect sign legibility. Signs placed above the storefront on a commercial

building should contain letters at least nine to fourteen inches high. As a sign should be in

proportion with a building, so should the lettering be to the size of the sign. A general rule

of thumb is that no more than 60 percent of the entire sign area should be used for lettering.

IV. Colour and Contrast

The stronger the contrast between the sign letters

and background, the more legible the sign. The

strongest visual impact is achieved with a dark

background with bright colours used for the

lettering. Colours are important for this reason

and because they also provide an opportunity to

co-ordinate with the overall colour scheme, they

form a unified building and business image.


Contents

V. Compatibility

Signs should always be considered a compatible building component, complimenting

architectural styles and periods. For example, Old English letters are out of place on a 1920’s

streamlined building. When in doubt, a simple letter style is best. An additional consideration

is how a contemplated sign fits within the streetscape and whether it overpowers or masks

its neighbours.

VI. Sign Illumination

Planning the illumination of signs is an integral part of the sign design process. In some

cases, enough light spilled on the building from adjacent light sources will allow the sign to

be read at night. If direct illumination is necessary, consider the following guidelines:

SIGN

COMPLIMENTING

ARCHITECTURAL

STYLE

PHOTO: CITY OF CHARLOTTETOWN


GUIDELINES FOR SIGN ILLUMINATION

1. In the historic area and for historic

buildings, follow traditional practices for

illuminating signs from the front (ie.

hooded incandescent goose-neck lamps).

2. Fluorescent fixtures may be used for direct

illumination for an historic building, if

concealed. Use a warm coloured tube

known as Deluxe Warm White (DWW).

3. Do not use flashing lights.

4. Spotlights may be used to highlight signs

and particular architectural features if

concealed and used discreetly. Position

spotlights so as not to cause glare for

pedestrians and motorists.

TRADITIONAL HOODED

INCANDESCENT LAMPS

5. Back-lit signs are not considered

appropriate for the historic area or for

heritage buildings. In every case, if

considered necessary, use dark opaque

backgrounds with a matte finish.

Spotlights may be used to highlight

signs and architectural features.


Sign GuidelinesBy Type

I. Wall Signs and Storefront Signs (Fascia Signs)

The term “wall sign” is a broad description for any sign painted directly upon, incorporated

within, or mounted upon, a building wall. Wall signs normally do not project more than eight

inches beyond the face of the building and ideally carry a simple clear business identification

message.

Storefront signs are mentioned separately in this section because, although they are a type

of wall sign, they are an important recurring feature on commercial buildings of all types,

from the earliest periods to the present. They are traditionally located between the storefront

TRADITIONAL LOCATIONS

FOR FASCIA SIGNS

PUBLIC ARCHIVES OF PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND


and the second floor windows on a horizontal sign band,

sometimes incorporated as part of the architectural features.

This is especially true of commercial buildings built during

the Victorian period (mid-1800’s to the turn of the Century).

In these cases, the storefront sign was usually centred and

balanced with the other building details (ie. above a central

recessed entry).

PUBLIC ARCHIVES OF PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND

Early commercial buildings in Charlottetown sometimes lacked

a component band on which to place sign letters. Instead, a

strong built-up cornice separated the storefront from the upper

facade. In these cases, letters were painted or mounted upon

a sign board fastened to the wall surface just above and resting

upon the upper surface of the cornice.

GUIDELINES

1. If the building has been altered with panels covering

architectural details, inspect for remnants of previous or

existing signs that may provide a precedent for appropriate

signs.

2. Repair rather than replace original sign bands. Consider

preserving faded original wall signs if they do not conflict

with signs for the existing business. Their unique charm

can add character to the street and provide a reminder of

the evolution of the commercial properties.


3. Use historic photographs as a guide for appropriate

signs for specific buildings. Lettering styles and

material choices can also be gleaned from these

photographs.

4. For historic buildings specifically, and for most

buildings in general, back-lit fluorescent sign boxes

should not be used unless they can be recessed into

the surface without damaging the structure. If a

plastic back-lit sign is the only alternative, use an

opaque finished background with as shallow a box

as is possible.

5. Ensure that wall signs are placed in logical flat areas

on buildings, are centred between architectural

elements, and allow sufficient wall space to show

around the sign so that it appears in scale, (see

illustration on page ).

6. Mount wall signs securely and carefully. Make sure

that bolts in masonry walls are secured in mortar

joints with non-ferrous sleeves and not in the

masonry units. Ensure that the upper edge is

properly flashed to protect any wood elements of

the building or sign from accelerated deterioration.

This sign on Queen Street

shows a compromise

alternative. A shallow 4 inch

sign box was used with a

black matte background and

opaque letters. At night,

1/4” is illuminated around

each letter. The box was

further camouflaged with the

installation of moulding

surrounds and a top cornice.


Flash upper edges of built-in

wall signs and use spacers for

applied walls signs to allow

for drying.

7. Look at the streetscape and challenge your signmaker to

produce something imaginative and different for your

business, fitting within the general sign guidelines outlined

previously. A wide variety of materials and construction

techniques should be used for the streetscape. The intent is

not to produce a sterile environment of identical signs but

a lively and vital business section.

8. Use storefront signs to display the name of the business.

Use one line of lettering where possible and leave out

secondary information (see illustration on page 4). Use

painted or carved lettering centred on a framed wood

background. On symmetrical storefronts, signs should extend

to the outside edges of the display windows and should not

exceed 90% of the building width.

9. Where available flat space is limited, consider using

individual letters mounted directly upon the wall, or

alternative types such as projecting or window signs.

INDIVIDUAL LETTERS

10. Where plywood is used for signboard, use M.D.O. (Medium

Density Overlay: a very smooth, dense exterior grade

plywood with resin-impregnated paper bonded to one or

both sides). This material will last longer and will not show

the grain as will not show the grain as will regular exterior

grade plywood. Seal the edges and ensure that they are

protected with a mounting frame to prevent delamination.


Introduction

11. Use a maximum of two contrasting colours together with

black or white. Ensure that the sign colours compliment

the colours found on the building.

12. Do not cover building detail with wall signs.

II. Projection Signs

Projecting signs are placed at right angles to the building

facade, either fixed to the wall or hung from decorative brackets.

Since their intended audience are pedestrians, they present a

unique opportunity for creative, colourful, eye-catching graphics.

The message here, too, should be simple. In some cases, the

purpose could be served with a simple effigy or symbol such

as a barber’s pole or a boot for a shoe repair shop.

GUIDELINES

1. Use historic photographs to research examples of period

projecting signs.

A projecting sign’s message

should be simple. In some

cases the purpose could be

served with a simple effigy.

2. Do not remove all old projecting signs but determine

whether they add to the character of the area even though

they may be from a period later than the construction date

of the building. If they appear hand made (nonstandardized)

they are likely worth saving and perhaps

reusing with a new message.


Contents

3. Centre the sign over the doorway or align it with vertical

building piers, or locate it at the mid-point of features

such as windows.

4. Internally lit projecting signs are generally inappropriate

for businesses south of Euston Street. Consider other

illumination techniques such as shielded spotlights or

goose-neck lamps.

5. Ensure that brackets are securely mounted on buildings.

Bolts in masonry walls should be secured in mortar joints

with non-ferrous sleeves and not in masonry units.

6. Look at the streetscape. If too many projecting signs exist,

consider other alternatives to avoid monotony.

PUBLIC ARCHIVES OF PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND

7. Use designs and colours that compliment the building to

which the sign is attached.

8. Sizes and position of projecting signs should be coordinated

with those of the neighbours’ to avoid

interference. Since the intended audience for projecting

signs is pedestrians have confidence that a smaller scale,

eye-catching sign will serve better than an oversized one.

PUBLIC ARCHIVES OF PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND

Consider reusing old

projecting signs if they add to

the character of the building

and help tell the story of the

development of the building.


Banners and Flags

Banners and flags are considered a form of projecting sign as

they often contain symbols or text that draw attention to

particular businesses. They can add colour and movement to

a commercial area but must be used judiciously, taking the

entire streetscape into consideration.

GUIDELINES

1. Follow the guidelines set for projecting signs.

2. Flags and banners must be replaced often as their

appearance deteriorates quickly. Consider using banners

on a temporary basis, to be changed or erected for specific

special events.

III. Window Signs

These signs are applied on the glass surfaces of storefront

display windows and doors. They can be etched, painted,

attached to the glass or hung directly behind the surface.

Lettering is usually small, to be read at close range.

Banners and flags add colour

and movement to the street but

should be kept in scale with the

building and streetscape so as

not to be overpowering.

Window signs add to the character of the business and area

but should not be confused with temporary paper

advertisements which only serve to clutter storefronts.


GUIDELINES

1. Where it is desirable to keep display areas clear, place the

letters at the base or the upper portion of the window glass.

2. Keep lettering small and centred.

3. Use letter styles that are easily read. Take into consideration

whether the interior of the shop provides a dark or light

background, then use a contrasting letter colour.

4. Whenever possible, display street numbers on door transoms.

PUBLIC ARCHIVES OF PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND


IV. Architectural Signs

Architectural signs include builders’ names and dates of

construction with accompanying decoration, usually carved in

stone. They are original building character elements that are

reminders of the development of Charlottetown’s commercial

areas and the prominent citizens who helped build the business

districts. Architectural signs contribute to Charlottetown’s unique

sense of place.

GUIDELINES

1. Preserve existing architectural signs and decorative details.

Guard against covering them or altering the original message.

2. Promote the use of architectural signs in new construction.


V. Awnings

Canvas storefront awnings have traditionally been used in Charlottetown to protect

customers from the elements and merchandise from the degrading effects of sunlight.

The design was standard: retractable, triangular in profile, extending well over the sidewalk

and spanning the width of the storefront between supporting piers. Awnings are mentioned

in this document because they are mentioned in this document because they normally

carry business symbols, logs and signs.

Awnings serve not only to protect customers and merchandise but also to provide a visual

relief and a three-dimensional quality to the planes of the streetscapes. The soft fabric,

subdued colours and retractability offer a sense of change and texture to the architecture

of our commercial districts.

PUBLIC ARCHIVES OF PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND


GUIDELINES

1. Retain, repair and maintain operable canvas awnings where

they survive. Keep awning mechanics in good repair and

replace canvas in kind, as required.

2. Use awnings for customer protection and shade where

there is evidence of their previous existence. Their use is

warranted on streetscapes that are exposed to lengthy

periods of sunlight.

3. Use retractable awnings if possible. Design fixed awnings

with simple standard triangular profiles and narrow flaps.

4. Extend awnings well over the sidewalk (between 4 and 7

feet) and the full width of the storefront between

supporting structural piers.

5. Use end panels and front fringe flaps for painted signs.

Use letter sizes that fit the space available. Avoid the

placement of signs on the slope of the awning.


6. The positive qualities of traditional awnings are not found

in modern shallow fixed canopies. They do have their place

on modern buildings set back from the street where they

are essentially considered oversized signs. Generally,

however, they do not belong on historic buildings nor

within the heritage area.

7. Round-shaped awnings are considered a second best

solution for the heritage area but only if they are large

and extend over the sidewalk, thereby serving the same

functions as the triangular-shaped traditional awnings.

Signs on these awnings should also be confined to the

ends and fringe flaps.

8. Ensure that the colours chosen fit well with the other

business signs and with the colour scheme of the building.

9. Use a treated canvas fabric or woven acrylic fibre fabric.

Maintain the awning fabric by washing to remove dust

and dirt. This will ensure a maximum life for the canvas

and a tidy shop image.


VI. Directory Signs or Multiple Occupancy Signs

These signs identify the names and sometimes the

location of multiple businesses occupying a single

building.

In the historic area of Charlottetown they were often

used to identify occupants of second and third floor

office spaces. They offer a clear and organized design

solution and are preferable to a group of unrelated

signs which only contribute to clutter and confusion.

GUIDELINES

1. Construct directory signs of simple design with

high quality materials and techniques.

SECOND FLOOR DIRECTORY

SIGNS – HISTORIC AREA

2. Use standard sizes for business name inserts.

Corporate logos and colours are encouraged.

3. Avoid back-lit fluorescent directory box signs.

If seen as the only alternative, use dark opaque

backgrounds.

4. Keep overall sizes reasonable, fitting within the

available space on the building or within the

landscape.

5. Use colours that compliment the building

and area.

MULTIPLE OCCUPANCY SIGN

– UNIVERSITY AVENUE

This sign overpowers the landscape

and contains inserts of varying signs

and legibility.


VII. Free-Standing Signs

Free-standing signs are physically separate from the building

and businesses to which they refer. In the historic area of

Charlottetown, free-standing signs relate to display easels

commonly set on the sidewalk in front of retail shops. In other

areas they relate to ground signs or multiple occupancy signs

identifying businesses found in buildings set back from the

street.

GUIDELINES

Display Easels

1. These signs should be well constructed and imaginatively

designed.

2. Care should be taken to situate signs so as not to block

pedestrian traffic.

Multiple Occupancy Signs with

the addition of secondary

information adds unnecessarily

to the visual clutter.


Free-Standing Ground Signs

– Highway Commercial

1. These signs should be well constructed and

follow the principles of effective sign design.

2. In highway commercial areas, the number of

identification signs for each business should

be limited to one. Secondary information

should be located in smaller signs located on

the building. Signs for more tan one business

occupying a single property should be

consolidated in Multiple Occupancy Signs.

3. The size of signs should be determined by the

permitted driving speed and should be no

greater than what is required for visibility.

(50 km/h – 4m 2 ; 70 km/h – 8m 2 ;

100 km/h – 14m 2 ). 1

SIGN CONSOLIDATION

1. William R. Ewals and Daniel R. Madelker, Street Graphics, (The

Landscape Architecture Foundation, McLean, Virginia, 1977.)


4. Install free-standing signs on a landscaped

or decorative base.

5. Free-standing signs should compliment the

design, materials and colour of the building

to which they refer.

UNIVERSITY AVENUE DESIGN

WORKSHOP BY

BASIC DESIGN ASSOCIATES

This 1991 design workshop looked

at the entire street in visual terms

and suggested that a “sign envelope”

be established based on best legibility

for highway speed (50km/h or

31 mp) and best view from

automobiles.


Bibliography

Bradbury, Ray, et al. Sign and Awning Guidelines – Trinity Royal Preservation Area. St. John, New Brunswick:

Preservation Review Board – City of St. John, 1988.

Ewals, William R., et al. Street Graphics. McLean, Virginia: The Landscape Architecture Foundation, 1977.

Design Guidelines – Highway Commercial Areas. Toronto, Ontario: Ontario Ministry of Municipal Affairs,

1988.

Fulton, Gordon W., et al. Signs on Main Street – A Main Street Canada Technical Manual. Ottawa, Ontario:

The Heritage Canada Foundation, 1988.

Guidelines Guide – How To Produce Useful Design Guidelines”, Main Street Newsletter – The Heritage

Canada Foundation, Vol. 4, No. 3, May-June, 1988.

Mintz, Norman, et al. Signs For Main Street. Washington, D.C.: National Trust for Historic Preservation,

1987.

Ryan, Dick, et al. Awnings and Canopies on Main Street. Washington, D.C.: National Trust for Historic

Preservation, 1987.

Schoettle, B. Clarkson. Keeping Up Appearances – Storefront Guidelines. Washington, D.C.: National Trust

for Historic Preservation, 1983.

Sign and Awning Guidelines for Old Strathcona. Edmonton, Alberta: The Old Strathcona Foundation, June,

1991.

Sign Language. Salem, Massachusetts: The Salem Redevelopment Authority, 1979.

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