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If Only They’d Get Together

NSREC presentation offers persuasive data for sign-favorable codes

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Given the quality of the presentations, thousands of people should have attended the The Signage Foundation Inc.’s National Signage Research & Education Conference (NSREC), which was held October 10-11 at the Kingsgate Marriott on the University of Cincinnati (UC) campus. When professors from three universities document the value and safety of signage, including two planning professors, their words have tremendous credence. When a professor of planning states that sign codes should be based on evidence, not conjecture or hearsay, and that sign codes must be content neutral, regulators should stand up and take notice.

Regarding UC’s national study about the value of signs, much of its data appears in the November issue of Signs of the Times (page 74), which corroborates what the sign industry already knows. But, consider these last two sentences in the Executive Summary: “Given the importance of signs, regulations should balance community design objectives with full knowledge of how sign design and location impact businesses’ success. Business success is important because of its impact on a community’s tax base, and it ultimately leads to the availability of greater fiscal resources to provide needed community services.” Additionally, the study included some case histories that document the cause and effect of better signage and increased sales and hiring.

A University of Oklahoma professor, who’s also a land-use attorney and city planner, spoke about developing an evidence-based sign code, meaning one based on actual data, rather than hearsay, conjecture or borrowing from another community’s code. Dr. Dawn Jourdan categorically endorsed content neutrality. As for determining sign dimensions, she said it’s simply a matter of calculating the minimum necessary size for letters, not setting maximums.

A Texas A&M Univ. professor, who’s a civil engineer and safety advocate with the Texas Transportation Institute, reported that research of crash data, collected over a four-year period in four states, didn’t produce any evidence of a positive correlation between electronic message centers (EMCs) and traffic accidents. Dr. H. Gene Hawkins explained that previous studies that examined before-and-after crash data with regard to EMCs were limited to singular sites or simply based on conjecture.

A different UC professor reported the results of Better Homes and Gardens study in which readers reported that signs made a difference in how they perceived the quality of a store. The report determined that more than 60% of respondents had driven past a store because of inadequate signage, and more than 80% get “frustrated and annoyed” when “signs are too small to read.” By a 3:1 ratio, respondents said they don’t believe smaller signs are more attractive, and nearly two-thirds find sign-design variety attractive in a business district.

Question: What do you think your local sign code would look like if your city planners/regulators had a chance to speak with all of these university professors?
 

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