Signs & Awnings for Historic Buildings

Below are some general guidelines for dealing with signs and awnings on heritage buildings. Specific, inflexible design guidelines are not desirable because of the enormous variety of architectural styles, exterior treatments and surrounding motifs of heritage buildings. Any sign, however, should respect the integrity of the building design and the general character of the signs and buildings in the immediate vicinity.

The following basic principles apply:

  • No sign should be constructed or situated so that it disfigures or conceals any significant architectural feature of the building.
  • Signs should identify, and be simple rather than "busy".
  • The overall design of a sign, including its size shape, material, texture, colour and method of lighting, should be compatible with the building's architecture.


Wood, metal, leather, glass and fabric (canopy) are acceptable. Plastic signs are less desirable and special attention to detail is required where plastics are used. The use of high-gloss plastic should be minimized.


Sign texture (i.e., rough cut wood, raised lettering, smooth painted surface) should complement the texture of the building (i.e., rusticated, ornate iron, balustrades, smooth stucco).

Lighting Methods:

Indirect and neon lighting are preferred to back-lit fluorescent illumination.


Sign colours should complement the colour of the building. Natural earth tones are preferred.

Method of Attachment:

Check the building's condition before erecting a sign, to ensure that no physical damage will result. Sign fastenings should be inconspicuous, unless the form an integral part of the sign design, in which case they should use traditional materials such as wood or wrought iron.

CREDIT:  Guidelines were provided by the City of Victoria Heritage Program 'Building Our Past' series.



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