Jul 29, 2019

Context Sensitive Signage Design is a concept that’s spreading through city governments. A landmark paper published in 2001 really got the ball rolling. It rolls on.

Do you suppose that outdoor and outdoor-facing signage just happens? That is, that businesses, and cities – each one just whips up whatever signs it wants, and installs it?

A little observation and a moment’s reflection suggest it’s not quite like that. It isn’t. Our South Florida region is, indeed,pretty freewheeling in this regard. Nevertheless, there are some principles


Signage is regulated by local, state, and federal laws. This doesn’t mean, though, that every single detailed feature of every single sign is spelled out. Even if that were desirable, it’s impossible. Think about the volume of signage out there. The number of people and entities posting it. If government controlled it all, that’s all it’d would have time to do!

City planners, particularly, concern themselves with public-facing signage. They see it as a part of the “built environment”. Their core interests are the same as those of local businesses and signage designers. Everybody, of course, wants an attractive built environment. It’s good for business, property values, and the local economy. What, after all, is not to like?

That’s not to say that there are no bad actors. For instance, a business with no long-term stake in a community. They might install ugly signage they think will pull lots of customers in. That’s why city regulators and code enforcement do what they do.


Context Sensitive Design (CSD) policies aim to assure that additions to the built environment “make sense” in the setting. That there’s consistency with the existing scene. Things change, to be sure, with innovation and tastes. CSD seeks evolutionary, managed change, rather than sudden radical change.

CSD-oriented city planners’ main peeve is visual clutter. Many feel that public-facing signage is the main source of this. Sign industry people, in contrast, argue that infrastructure items like utility poles, bus stop shelters, and benches are undeniably culprits. For the most part, all agree that Illegal and non-compliant signage is a major part of the visual clutter problem.


Then there’s the matter of municipal signage. That is, a city’s own signs. Street signs,  building signs,  letterhead signs marking historic places. There’s a welcome trend toward partnering between city planners and South Florida sign designers in this area.  A distinctive style across all types of a city’s signage contributes greatly to a place’s “look and feel”. This, in turn, becomes a part of the context to which private and commercial signage should be sensitive.

GraphPlex Signs supports Context Sensitive Design.At the present time our team serves several South Florida cities. We look forward to serving yours.





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