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If downtown retail districts are to compete with franchise-heavy commercial districts and malls, their small independent businesses must communicate a vibrant, alternative message through graphic identities. The identity that represents each business is the most important aspect of this message, and it needs to be planned and implemented with great care. Based upon our research we propose ways to assist business owners and communities with graphic messaging and its application to signage by providing the communication guidance that is missing in design standards and sign regulations. Through an understanding of communication theory and examining both positive and negative examples of business signs and community design standards, we demonstrate how communities and regulations can be improved to better serve of the unique communication needs and goals of small, independent businesses and the community.
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