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Signage is the design or use of signs and symbols to communicate a message to a specific group, usually for the purpose of marketing or a kind of advocacy. A signage also means signs collectively or being considered as a group. The term signage is documented to have been popularized in 1975 to 1980. Signs are any kind of visual graphics created to display information to a particular audience. This is typically manifested in the form of wayfinding information in places such as streets or on the inside and outside of buildings.
Signs vary in form and size based on location and intent, from more expansive banners, billboards, and murals, to smallerstreet signs, street name signs, sandwich boards and lawn signs. Newer signs may also use digital or electronic displays. The main purpose of signs is to communicate, to convey information such that the receiver may make cognitive decisions based on the information provided.
The French enseigne indicates its essential connection with what is known in English as a flag, and in France, banners not infrequently took the place of signs or sign boards in the Middle Ages. Signs, however, are best known in the form of painted or carved advertisements for shops, inns, etc. They are one of various emblematic methods used from time immemorial for publicly calling attention to the place to which they refer.
The ancient Egyptians and Romans were known to use signs. In ancient Rome, signboards were usually made from stone or terracotta, and Greeks are known to have used signs also. Many Roman examples are preserved, among them the widely recognized bush to indicate a tavern, from which is derived the proverb “Good wine needs no bush”. In some cases, such as the bush, or the three balls of pawnbrokers, certain signs became identified with certain trades and some of these later evolved into trademarks. Other signs can be grouped according to their various origins. Thus, at an early period, the cross or other sign of a religious character was used to attract Christians, whereas the sign of the sun or the moon would serve the same purpose for pagans.
In 1389, King Richard II of England compelled landlords to erect signs outside their premises. The legislation stated “Whosoever shall brew ale in the town with intention of selling it must hang out a sign, otherwise he shall forfeit his ale.” This was in order make them easily visible to passing inspectors of the quality of the ale they provided (during this period, drinking water was not always good to drink and ale was the usual replacement). Later, the adaptation of the coats of arms or badges of noble families became common. These would be described by the people without consideration of the language of heraldry, and thus such signs as the Red Lion, the Green Dragon, etc., have become familiar, especially as pub signs.