Vital Signs: For planners and local officials who draft, debate and enforce sign ordinances
Posted on August 1, 2017

Free resources

The International Sign Association and the Sign Research Foundation develop research to guide planners and local officials when dealing with sign ordinance issues in your communities. 

EMCs    |    Sign Codes    |    Best Practices    |    Reed Decision    |    Economic Development

Download these free resources by clicking on the report covers below.



Night-time Brightness Level Recommendations for On-Premise Electronic Message Centers (EMCs)

Updated in August 2016, this EMC brightness guide is based on peer-reviewed research by Dr. Ian Lewin of Lighting Sciences, Inc. Dr. Lewin is a leading lighting expert with over 30 years experience in the lighting industry. Check out the new version, updated August 2016!


EMCs and Traffic Safety

Texas A&M University's Transportation Engineering School recently conducted exhaustive research on the traffic safety impact of on-premise electronic message centers (EMCs). This research is the first of its kind, and will provide local decision-makers with the fact-based evidence necessary to enact reasonable and beneficial sign codes.

This report also has an executive summary with a statistical analysis and three key takeaways from the original report.

Finding Common Ground: Answers to Common Questions about Electronic Message Centers (EMCs)

Finding Common Ground

This document provides the latest information on how to properly and effectively regulate electronic message centers (EMCs) so that communities and businesses can benefit.

Differences Between On-Premise and Off-Premise Signs

Differences Between On-Premise and Off-Premise Signs

This chart provides a side-by-side comparison and contrast between on-premise and off-premise signs, which is helpful because each type of sign has very distinct capabilities and purposes, each targets a specific audience and each has traditionally been treated under separate legal and regulatory regimes.

Examples of EMC Hold Times

Examples of EMC Hold Times

These videos demonstrate examples of various EMC hold times. Videos created and provided by Yesco Electronics.

Sign Codes


Model Sign Code - A Framework for On-Premise Sign Regulations

This report outlines the appropriate framework for communities to formulate on-premise sign regulations that respect both community and business interests. This document is most applicable to smaller communities – say those with populations up to several hundred thousand. These communities "typically" possess the variety of character areas that are the basis for the Model Code section. While larger cities may have many similar character areas they may also have a wider variety of unique areas that warrant special considerations that are not addressed in this model.


Model Sign Code - A Legal and Technical Exploration of On-Premise Sign Regulations

Unlike most modern sign codes which attempt to regulate on-premises signs on the basis of police powers, Urban Design Associates has drafted this municipal sign code for the Sign Research Foundation, which is based on the best available transportation planning and engineering research. This evidence-based approach to regulation seeks to ensure that signs, as commercial speech, are afforded some guaranteed constitutional protections. This report begins with a discussion of the legal issues fundamental to the regulation of on-premise commercial signs. Next, the report describes the technical research related to issues of the legibility of on-premise signs. The third section of this report features an evidence-based model sign code, crafted to reflect the identified legal and technical issues.

Signs and Federal Laws of Protection

Signs and Federal Laws of Protection

Federal laws, the Constitution, and Supreme Court rulings provide protections for on-premise signs. Because federal laws supersede state and local provisions, codes must be created in a way that does not violate these established principles. This document provides an overview of those federal laws.

Building Stronger Communities: Working Together to Create Reasonable Sign Codes

Building Stronger Communities

It doesn’t matter whether it’s a small town or large metropolitan area or something in-between, we all want the same thing in our communities - great quality of life. We might pursue that goal differently, but some basic ideals are universal: a strong and sustainable tax base, prosperous businesses, safe streets and aesthetic appeal. These are goals that city planners, local government officials and business owners strive to reach every day. An effective sign code can be a powerful tool to help achieve these objectives.


Best Practices

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Urban Wayfinding Manual

The Sign Research Foundation has developed a comprehensive guide to urban wayfinding from planning to implementation. This valuable resource explains system financing, design, regulatory issues, and implementation.


Best Practices in Regulating Temporary Signs
(Updated with Reed v. Town of Gilbert Supreme Court Case)

Compiled by prominent planner Wendy Moeller, AICP, this guide offers communities assistance in understanding different kinds of temporary signs and best practices for regulating each type.


Reed v. Town of Gilbert Decision and Legal Issues

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The State of Sign Codes After Reed v. Town of Gilbert

View insights on the decision from Professor Alan Weinstein, a national noted planning law expert. Prof. Weinstein holds a joint faculty appointment at Cleveland State University’s Cleveland-Marshall College of Law and Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs and also serves as Director of the Colleges' Law & Public Policy Program.

Economic Development


The Economic Value of On-Premise Signage

The University of Cincinnati's Planning and Business schools recently collaborated to conduct extensive research on the economic value of signs to businesses and communities. This research will provide local sign code officials with the latest information on how signs help businesses communicate with customers, and how communities can benefit from improved economic activity.


Signs and the Downtown Experience

The report compares the effectiveness of different approaches to sign design with different strategies and economic trends. The analysis creates a clearer picture of how effective signs can enhance commercial institutions and play an important role in enhancing the community and environment.

Topics: Research

ISA Planning for Sign Code SuccessTM
David Hickey, VP Advocacy

David Hickey
VP, Advocacy

James Carpentier, AICP

James Carpentier, AICP
Director, State & Local Goverment

Kenny Peskin

Kenny Peskin
Director, Industry Programs | @signcodeguy


Sign Code Assistance Button

Sign Code Assistance, Education and Training

Is your community considering revising its sign code? Or are you looking for education and training for an upcoming APA meeting?

Contact to receive expert and complimentary sign code assistance:

  • Research on sign-related issues
  • Sign code education and training 
  • Planning, legal and technical sign code resources and advice

The International Sign Association (ISA) has helped hundreds of cities across the country develop modern, effective and enforceable sign codes.

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