Urban vs. Suburban: How Location Impacts Your Custom Signage Design

When people walk or drive around in downtown Minneapolis, bright illuminated signs draw their eyes to stores, restaurants, and theaters. Businesses have just a moment to trigger an impulse to draw in passersby. However, in suburbs like Minnetonka, Eden Prairie, or Lakeville, a more toned-down approach is needed. This is even truer in more rustic towns in the area, and the signage in a suburban or rural setting tends to be more subdued while still drawing the attention of potential customers.

Whether your business is in the city, the suburbs, or rural areas, it's important to understand the city codes, which may restrict sign construction based on local aesthetics. When selecting a sign manufacturer, remember to choose one that understands all the codes and helps you stay in compliance without sacrificing the high quality or visual appeal of your best branding tool.

Suburban vs. Urban Signs

Suburban and rural communities can have more design restrictions if you want to fit into the color scheme or architectural elements of the area. And, even though you do want your signage to stand out, it shouldn't clash with surrounding structures. The type of signs you use also depends on how much pedestrian or street traffic you can expect.

ideal-credit-union-pylonPylon Signs

A pylon sign is a standalone structure that markets your business name, as well as its products and services. In high traffic areas, it's common to see a single pylon sign with the names of all the various businesses in the plaza. A dedicated pylon sign creates a landmark on the exterior of your business and raises you above the competition.

Building codes often include height restrictions that you have to work around in the relatively flat skylines of the suburbs. This signage type is most suitable for suburban shopping centers and other places along the highway that don't have height restrictions on signage to attract drivers. In the metropolitan areas, where skyscrapers dominate, pylon signs might not even be allowed. Larger cities tend to be much more restrictive on sign sizes and quantities, just because of the sheer number of signs in a more densely populated area.

Completion Monument FrontMonument Signs

A monument sign is smaller than a pylon sign but also promotes your brand, announces your business to the community and helps you stand out from the surrounding storefronts. Work with your sign manufacturer to determine the mix of colors, materials, and architectural elements that will resonate with your clientele.

Monument signs suit businesses in less congested areas. This could include residential neighborhoods in the city as well as more open communities in the suburbs and surrounding areas. Many schools, hospitals, shopping centers, and airports choose this type of signage for wayfinding purposes and for their elegant, subtle qualities.


LED signs light up and are visible day or night. These signs are great for areas with a lot of pedestrian traffic or for businesses that are open after dark. Ask your sign manufacturer if your place of business in a good candidate for interior or exterior LED signs that attract locals out at night.

There are two main styles that you can use to market your brand, either flush to the wall or building or race track style, where the letters stand out from the wall to create a sense of perspective from further away.

directional-wayfinding-signs-02Wayfinding/Directional Signs

In an urban setting, wayfinding, or directional, signs show people how to get to your business. You may want to select more vivid color schemes, larger letters, and LED lights to draw eyes and feet to your storefront.

The placement of wayfinding signs is different for urban versus suburban settings. In the suburbs or in rural areas, the letters need to be large enough for passing cars to read since pedestrian traffic is minimal.

No matter where you open your doors for business, Spectrum Signs can help you design signage that adheres to local municipal codes and meets the criteria set up by your building's landlord, if applicable. Feel free to ask your signage expert what they recommend for your urban or suburban setting. Set up a consultation today to get a professional evaluation of the best signage strategy for your business and location.

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Patrick Woller

Patrick Woller [fa icon="linkedin-square"]

Patrick is a Graphic Designer at Spectrum Signs, a custom business sign maker in Blaine, MN. After a call from his college placement office, Patrick joined the Spectrum Signs team in 2010. Patrick finds enjoyment in the unique challenges his job gives him through the use of out of the ordinary materials. When Patrick isn’t designing signs, he enjoys playing with his dog Willis, learning the guitar, and working on welding projects.