Planning new signage

This online fact sheet provides information on planning new signage on heritage properties.

Signage considerations

As new signage designs must be explained, consider using the existing sign. Remove large signage to expose architectural features, and patch or restore original materials that were damaged.

A row of shops or multiple tenancies in a building should have a professionally-prepared signage policy to ensure design consistency.

The John Oxley Library photographic collection is a valuable information source for identifying original signage on some buildings including style, period and location.


  • Consider signage as integral to a building’s frontage and street presentation.
  • Integrate signage with building architecture so features are not hidden.
  • Ensure signage considers geometry and alignment of features and signage on nearby buildings.
  • Use a contemporary signage design if no evidence of historic signage design is available.
  • Reinstate a historic signage design when there is evidence.

Find out more about designing signage.


  • Ensure sign reflects building geometry and proportion.
  • Choose small, clear and simple signs that are easy-to-read.


  • Use appropriate historic or simple contemporary typeface to complement the building.
  • Use simple, clear typeface for easy-to-read signage.
  • Use well-sized, individually attached typeface in matt paint to create a legible, effective and understated sign.
  • Ensure letter sizing is proportionate to the sign and building.


  • If possible, use original building materials for construction.
  • Choose materials that are compatible with the building colours and textures.
  • Paint new signage on a flat panel before fixing it to the building.
  • Avoid finishes such as reflective and opalescent paint.


  • Ensure the signage colours complement the building style and period.
  • If possible, match original building and signage colours for consistency.
  • Choose background colours that contrast with lettering to increase legibility.
  • Use two contrasting colours over multiple colours for signage.


  • Ensure fixings are strong, neat and easily removable without causing permanent building damage.


  • Use evidence to show where advertising was located including:
    • parapet walls
    • wall friezes and fascias
    • blind windows on chamfered corners
    • gable walls
    • blind walls
    • verandah fascias and ends
    • canvas blinds
    • painted on roof sheeting.
  • Locate signage where it would have gone.
  • Ensure sign location does not obscure or damage building features.
  • If possible, align or fit the sign to a defined feature including a recess, frame or band (fascia).
  • Ensure signage does not obscure the original frontage or obstruct building entrance.
  • Keep the top of the sign below the lowest roof point or fit within the parapet recesses.

Corporate branding

  • Ensure the building heritage has priority over signage with an advertising strategy that imposes a pre-standardised format.
  • Adapt corporate image requirements to complement the scale, design and colour scheme of heritage building.


  • To avoid visual clutter, restrict the number of signs.
  • Early photos show historic buildings with extensive signage. This had less impact (than contemporary signs) as materials and colours were subdued, and fluorescent and neon lighting was unavailable.

Recommended signage

Applied signs (painted board)

  • Ensure sign size does not dominate or detract from the building appearance.
  • Ensure signs applied to flat areas or bands (fascias) appear as part of the building.
  • Apply individual lettering in the right colour and typeface using coloured neon tubes.

Projecting signs (hanging sign)

For 19th Century buildings use:

  • projecting signs only if evidence on the original building exists
  • discreet spotlights to illuminate projecting signs which are hanging or supported with wall brackets.

Window signs

  • Paint lettering on an upper floor or display window for advertising, or if no fascia exists, or another sign type is undesirable.
  • Glazing shape and proportions should dictate advertising text layout.
  • Where appropriate, use coloured neon tubes or small, well-designed, internally-illuminated signs inside a glass window.
  • Ensure signs on glass windows do not exceed 30% of the glass area.

Illuminated signs

  • Use externally-illuminated signs over internally-illuminated signs to maintain building and precinct character.
  • Preferably only use neon signs on buildings circa 1915.
  • Where possible, conceal wiring in building cavities.

Free-standing signs

  • Only use externally-illuminated free-standing signs.
  • Ensure they do not obscure or detract from the building or precinct.

House signs

  • Affix house signs to fences or make them free-standing.

Temporary signs

  • Ensure a high design standard for signage.
  • Display no longer than necessary.
  • Position signage to respect building features.

Signage to avoid

  • Applied, bulky or box-like, internally-illuminated signs look 'stuck on' buildings.
  • Projecting, internally-illuminated box-type signs are bulky, obtrusive and detract from the building appearance.
  • Signs standing above awnings and verandahs, and roof eaves or sky signs are obtrusive and obscure roof form.
  • Signs on fascias extending across adjoining buildings adversely affect individual building's design and scale.
  • Large signs can overwhelm and obscure buildings, and impact on precinct views.
  • Brightly coloured or internally-illuminated signs can detract from 19th Century buildings' or heritage precincts' appearance.

More information

For more information about new signage on heritage properties in Brisbane, contact Council.

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