SIGN OF THE TIMES: NEW APPROACHES TO MAIN STREET SIGNAGE REGULATIONS
By Joe Lawniczak, Wisconsin Main Street
This downtown Racine storefront uses three different sign types (projecting, flush-mounted, and window signs). Their size and placement fit well with its architectural elements. It looks attractive and uncluttered. Many communities’ sign ordinances have size and quantity restrictions that wouldn’t allow this approach.
Main Street business signage is vitally important not only for businesses but also for establishing the district’s character.
Signs portray an image, either good or bad, of the quantity and quality of a district’s businesses. As opposed to a building’s architectural features, signs are an element of the building’s exterior where the brand, color, and logo of a business can be expressed most appropriately—but regulations are necessary to create or maintain the image of a unified commercial district.
Signage in Main Street districts differs from signage in suburban shopping areas where traffic is moving at higher speeds and is more distant from the business. Most Main Street districts have a pedestrian scale, with slower traffic and more customers on foot. As a result, signs can be smaller. Since they are often attached to older and historic buildings, they should complement the architectural design of the facades.