Sign In
City of Philadelphia

Signs, Awnings, Canopies, etc.

Most signs that need approval by the Art Commission also require a Sign Permit, issued by the Department of Licenses and Inspections (L&I). Existing signs which do not have a valid sign license, where needed, must follow the same application procedures as for new signs. Applicants should begin by securing the necessary application forms from the Permit Issuance Section of the Department of Licenses and Inspections. The completed application, along with any other required materials should be returned to L&I. L&I staff will review the application and forward a copy to the Art Commission.
At the same time, the applicant should forward a separate package containing the following to the Art Commission:

1. A cover letter containing:

  • a brief description of the sign(s), awning(s), etc. for which approval is sought. Please specify whether signs are proposed or existing;
  • the name, mailing address fax # and e-mail address of the person to whom the decision should be sent and the name, phone number and e-mail address of someone who can answer questions about the application. 
2. Color photographs at least 3" x 5", one copy of each of the following views of the building or site as it exists at the time of application:

Note: Photos must be taken at the time of application. Online street views are not acceptable because they are not current.
  • The entire building facade or site .***
  • adjacent building or site to the right and left**
  • view down the block to the right and left**
  • view across the street**
  • for signs proposed to be seen from a distance, views from intended points of view.

* If the sign already exists, photos showing the actual sign should be submitted instead of the drawings described in #'s 3 & 4.
** If the property is located on a corner, please include additional views of both streets.
*** If the building has security gates, photos must be submitted showing them in the opened and closed positions.

3. Working drawing(s) of the actual design, drawn to scale, with all dimensions, materials, and colors clearly labeled, and fonts, logos, etc accurately portrayed, showing exactly how the sign will look.*

4. A perspective drawing or overlay showing the sign in its exact location on the building or site.*

5. Plot plan showing the relation of sign(s) to property lines.

In some cases the Art Commission staff may request additional information such as color and material samples or more detailed drawings.
Review Process:
Routine sign proposals that meet zoning requirements, except in Center City, may be approved by the Commission staff. One copy of the submission package should be submitted. The applicant will receive written notice of decision by mail.

All proposals for signs in Center City (the area bounded by the Delaware and Schuylkill Rivers and South and Spring Garden Streets), skyline signs (at or near the tops of tall buildings) and proposals which the staff determines to be non-routine will be referred to the Commission’s Sign Committee. This Committee, made up of representatives of the Art and Planning Commissions, meets the third Tuesday morning of each month. The Committee’s recommendations are made to the Art Commission at its next regular meeting on the following first Wednesday.  In order to be included on the agenda for a Sign Committee meeting, applicants must submit a written request to staff at least two weeks prior to the meeting date. Twelve (12) copies of the submission package described above, with any additional information requested by staff, must be submitted no later than one week before the meeting for distribution to the Committee members. Copies must be collated into 12 packages and folded, if necessary, to 8½’ x 11''. Note, each package must include a copy of the descriptive cover letter! Applicants’ attendance at the Committee meeting is optional, however for non-routine proposals it is recommended. Applicants who choose to attend may bring larger scale photos and drawings, mounted on boards for presentation, material samples, etc. to the meeting. Applicants will be told the Committee’s recommendation at the meeting, followed by a written confirmation. Applicants who disagree with the Committee’s recommendation may attend the Commission meeting to appeal. Applicants will receive written confirmation of the Commission’s final decision after they meet.

Routine sign proposals outside of Center City which the staff determines to be inappropriate will be disapproved by staff. Applicants wishing to appeal such disapprovals may do so by presenting to the Sign Committee. Applicants should follow the directions in the previous paragraph for submitting to the Committee.

The Commission and its staff have up to 60 days to act on any matter for which a complete application package has been submitted to them, after which approval may be presumed.

No sign should be ordered, fabricated or installed until notice of approval is received. Applicants should avoid making non-refundable deposits to manufacturers for specific types of signs until a positive response is received from the Commission. If an installation varies in any manner from what was approved, the Commission will request appropriate action by the Dept. of Licenses and Inspections.