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Thread: Window signs (aka "lifestyle graphics")

  1. #1
    Cyburbian
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    Window signs (aka "lifestyle graphics")

    I was wondering if anyone has had a lot of experience in dealing with the issues related to these types of signs? We're getting ready to update our sign legislation and I'm trying to get some ideas on how we move forward with a potential policy document on these. They've been popping up in Canada a lot more and I'm interested to know how other Canadian cities deal with them, as well as US. Here it's been a matter of interpretation since they cover a window entirely, but some places have been creating "fake" windows to put them on.

    I've attached a photo for those of you who may not have seen these types of signs.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails lifestyle graphic bw.JPG   lifestyle graphic bw 2.JPG  


  2. #2
    Cyburbian fringe's avatar
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    Most window sign regs I have seen restrict size by percent of gross area. If "window" is fake I would just call it a wall sign.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian Tobinn's avatar
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    Signage

    I agree with Fringe.
    From the Code of my fair City:
    Sign means any surface, fabric, device or display which bears lettered, pictorial or sculptured matter, including forms shaped to resemble any human, animal or product designed to convey information to the public and is visible from an abutting property, public right-of-way, or body of water.
    At times like this, you have to ask yourself, "WWJDD?"
    (What Would Jimmy Durante Do?)

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    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by fringe View post
    Most window sign regs I have seen restrict size by percent of gross area. If "window" is fake I would just call it a wall sign.
    Some communities in the United States have design codes that require or allow faux windows as an architectural device to break up long exterior walls. There are so many questions to answer:

    * If a sign code allows only a certain percentage of window coverage in signs, would that apply to required faux windows too? I would say "yes", because the windows were required as an architectural feature, not a sign display area.

    * If a code does not require faux windows, what then?
    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

  5. #5
    Cyburbian Seabishop's avatar
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    Another issue is the nature of the display. If the picture is of a smiling woman and does not communicate the nature of the business or any text it probably falls short of being a "sign" under most zoning regs.

  6. #6
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Seabishop View post
    Another issue is the nature of the display. If the picture is of a smiling woman and does not communicate the nature of the business or any text it probably falls short of being a "sign" under most zoning regs.
    If it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck ...

    What if it's tied in with the marketing campaign of the retailer, though, in a way that's much different than a typical mural? If many stores feature graphics showing a soft-focus multicultural trio of sassy BFFs, and the same images also appear in print and online advertising, and those graphics are permitted as signage at some locations, the National Socialist zoning administrator in me would say "yup, signs." Murals usually aren't part of a marketing campaign or trade dress, while lifestyle graphics are. Lifestyle graphics (gawd, what an awful term) are meant to be swapped out, so the soft-focus multicultural trio of sassy BFFs, the laughing girlfriends with shopping bags, and so on may be replaced with something that is directly related, like a friendly pharmacist handing over pills to a smiling upper-middle class yoga mom.

    Then again, Canadians don't have to deal with the same First Amendment constitutional issues as planners in the US, so our south-of-the-border perspective might not apply.

    EDIT: Google "lifestyle graphics" and "signage". The two go together like milk and cookies. Basically, it's "signage for girls" - it's a marketing tool appealing mainly towards women, intended to set a mood.
    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

  7. #7
    Cyburbian stroskey's avatar
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    We had a KFC that wanted to do this recently. Their graphics had KFC logos and the colonel and I denied it saying they were signs. Then they asked about abstract pictures of chicken wings, a potato, etc. and I approved that.

    As for faux windows, our policy is that if you removed the sign and can see inside the building it is a window sign and not regulated. If you remove the sign and all you see is brick or other substrate then it is a wall sign.

    I've never heard one complaint about lifestyle signs. What we hear about is liquor stores with all their hand painted windows signs.
    I burned down the church to atone for my transgressions.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    I agree that such things are signs. I might suggest a coule things to include in your ordinance. First, you might state that fake windows may not contain any graphic images, lettering, etc. Seconf, a common technique in downtown sign ordinances is to require a minimum percentage of transparent area on the facade, in which no sign, graphics, etc, may be located.
    Anyone want to adopt a dog?

  9. #9
    Cyburbian SW MI Planner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Seabishop View post
    Another issue is the nature of the display. If the picture is of a smiling woman and does not communicate the nature of the business or any text it probably falls short of being a "sign" under most zoning regs.
    Our ordinance wouldn't define these as signs, and in any event, I don't know that I would really consider these signs anyway. It's kind of the same thing as someone wanting a mural on the side of their building. If it is of neutral content and doesn't contain any brand recognition than I don't really consider it a sign.

    But maybe I am getting too lax in my old age

  10. #10
    Unfrozen Caveman Planner mendelman's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by SW MI Planner View post
    But maybe I am getting too lax in my old age
    Or sensible.

    I personally would interpret a "gray" definition for these in favor of letting them stay.

    But generally, I dislike sign enforcement and think that sign pollution isn't as bad or prevalent as some people think.
    Last edited by mendelman; 18 Feb 2011 at 12:28 PM.
    I'm sorry. Is my bias showing?

    The ends can justify the means.

  11. #11
    Cyburbian
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    Because of our definition of 'copy' - these are actually signs. So many stores are using these now in Calgary it's becoming a real problem. Fortunately, we've begun the review of our signage regulations. We've split it into conventional signs (anything not TPA or digital) and then Digital/TPA.

    But we're seeing these crop up in our pedestrian oriented areas and it's becoming more difficult to deal with it.

  12. #12
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by calgaryplanner View post
    Because of our definition of 'copy' - these are actually signs. So many stores are using these now in Calgary it's becoming a real problem. Fortunately, we've begun the review of our signage regulations. We've split it into conventional signs (anything not TPA or digital) and then Digital/TPA.
    TPA? What is that, if I may ask?
    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

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    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    A followup: how would one define "lifestyle graphics" for a zoning/sign code? A couple of definitions I saw on marketing-oriented Web sites:

    "Lifestyle images portray either the merchandise, often as it is being used, or simply images of related items or models that convey an image conducive to buying the product." (http://classes.bus.oregonstate.edu/b...rials/ch13.ppt)

    "illustrations that either directly or abstractly show people enjoying the products of the particular department." (http://goliath.ecnext.com/coms2/gi_0...-in-store.html)
    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

  14. #14
    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Dan View post
    A followup: how would one define "lifestyle graphics" for a zoning/sign code?
    "Definitions: Section 102.1. "Lifestyle Graphics" - Any oversized sign or other idealized image depicting people in connection with a product, place, or service that are happier, richer, more glamorous and beautiful than you or I will ever be."

  15. #15
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Maister View post
    "Definitions: Section 102.1. "Lifestyle Graphics" - Any oversized sign or other idealized image depicting people in connection with a product, place, or service that are happier, richer, more glamorous and beautiful than you or I will ever be."
    Win.



    Thinking about it, I don't think one can safely use a content-based definition, at least in the US. It may just come down to a zoning administrator's interpretation, or a vague statement that includes lifestyle graphics in a broader definition of on-premises signage.
    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

  16. #16
    Cyburbian SW MI Planner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Dan View post
    Win.



    Thinking about it, I don't think one can safely use a content-based definition, at least in the US. It may just come down to a zoning administrator's interpretation, or a vague statement that includes lifestyle graphics in a broader definition of on-premises signage.
    I agree to both sentiments - that this is content based, which would be a problem, as well as it would be difficult to construct a definition that isn't subjective.

    For example, you posted this definition: Lifestyle images portray either the merchandise, often as it is being used, or simply images of related items or models that convey an image conducive to buying the product

    I would ask buying "what" product? The pictures posted by the OP show a lady with a cup of something. My first thought was that it was coffee, (for what that's worth), but unless there is a Starbucks or something inside the Wal-mart or the Shoppers Drug Mart, I would question how that image is a sign for that particular business. Also, I would think that in this statement, "an image conducive to buying the product", the use of "conducive" would be difficult to implement because we are all motivated by different things, and what drives me to purchase a product is different than someone else. Yes, while I think we can all reasonably assume what the intent is, we all know there are a bunch of crafty people looking to get around the ordinance that will come up with different meanings behind that.

    So I still go back to unless there is product placement in the image, or the image directly related to the business (the women holding a cup of coffee on a Starbucks building), these types of images aren't signs. But, that's just my .02

  17. #17
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by Dan View post
    TPA? What is that, if I may ask?
    TPA = Third Party Advertising Sign (billboard).
    I think in Canada, we do have content limits in some terms; as we do have law in the same manner as the US in terms of commercial freespeach. But there case law from our courts is a bit different, I'm thinking of the Oakville Case having to do with their restrictions on billboards.

    Because our defintion of copy is pretty open and also includes pictures, we've been interpreting the graphics to be signage, which is pretty consistent across the country and so far we've been very successful.

    But I like the suggested defintion that was posted earlier.

  18. #18
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by calgaryplanner View post
    TPA = Third Party Advertising Sign (billboard).
    I think in Canada, we do have content limits in some terms; as we do have law in the same manner as the US in terms of commercial freespeach. But there case law from our courts is a bit different, I'm thinking of the Oakville Case having to do with their restrictions on billboards..
    Thanks! If you could post a link to the Oakville case, I'd like to see it.

    The litmus test for sign regulations in the US is that they don't go beyond restrictions in time, place and manner. The place provision has been used to justify billboard bans. Manner is meant to regulate sign location, height, setback, form, and so on. Time applies to display periods for temporary signs, removal provisions for abandoned signs, and so on, regardless of content. However, content can't be regulated, unless it passes the time-place-manner litmus test. For example, many sign codes in the United States place time limits on political signs, but not on personal opinion signs; such provisions have been considered to violate TPM by some courts because they limit political messages, while permitting other noncommercial opinions not related to an election.
    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

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