In Liberty Village a vigorous debate is underway about whether or not digital commercial signs are appropriate in the commercial/residential district. At present, Toronto has two designated special sign districts Yonge-Dundas Square and the Gardiner Expressway corridor. Liberty Village borders the Gardiner Expressway, which makes residents especially sensitive to the presence of digital or electronic signs which pepper the corridor.
At stake is the 2009 sign bylaw, which banned – to a large extent – most digital signage from residential areas and which the City Council is considering reversing, allowing electronic signs to be displayed in commercial/residential districts like Liberty Village. Because digital signs change every eight to ten seconds, they have been labeled a nuisance and a form of “visual pollution” by critics who warn that if the new city staff recommendations are permitted, the city can expect a deluge of complaints about their sleep-disturbing properties.
Though the city manager downplayed the likelihood of a significant citizen backlash, letters have already been coming in advising against adopting a more open digital signage policy in the area. For example one Liberty Village condo resident wrote: “I now have two layers of blinds in my bedroom and even with both sets closed the light from the billboard leaks into my bedroom, bright enough to notice with my eyes closed.” In response to concerns such as these, the city manager assures residents that digital signs in commercial/residential areas would be subject to stricter controls (e.g., capping height at three square meters and making them more pedestrian-oriented) than apply to traditional (non-electronic) signage.
Though these measures will likelihood minimize the impact of the signs, another alternative worth considering would be to use traditional, non-electronic, signage, which would substantially reduce the impact of those signs, while allowing for greater presence, than the scale-restricted digital signs that are proposed. There are many time-tested and far less invasive options for exterior commercial signage, such as sandblasted signs, dimensional letters, wood monument signs and many other types of exterior signage.
For the launch of its brand on the west coast, the brewery Shock Top had an exterior sandblasted sign, with two dimensional lettering mounted on a wooden base displayed at key micro-brewery hubs in San Francisco. The sign was followed typical billboard dimensions, but the outrageously vivid sunglass be speckled, orange head with a Mohawk made of barley seared its brand past the filters that cause us to ignore most billboard signs, long after the sign was taken down. This sign, a traditional billboard one, was illuminated solely by a modest sconce light at night – a far better option for commercial/residential districts such as Liberty Village than a full-on digital commercial sign.
One Toronto councilmember made strident assertions that the proposed reversed commercial electronic sign ban would be dismissed out of hand for residential areas, but the discussion is far from over. When the council reconvenes perhaps they’ll find traditional commercial signage can provide a happier middle ground than either side, at present, is proposing.
Sita Cole has been a creative marketing marketing for a number of years and specializes in designing and creating business commercial signage. She has worked with a range of sign manufacturers and highly recommends custom business sign from Blue Pond Signs. Feel free to connect with her via Google+ for questions or more information.