Purchase Our Award-winning Sign Guidebook

About the Guidebook

This Michigan Sign Guidebook addresses local planning and regulation of nearly all types of exterior signs.  The Planning and Zoning Center at Michigan State University, a part of the Land Policy Institute, in collaboration with Scenic Michigan, developed the Guidebook primarily for use by local government officials interested, with a particular emphasis on  professional planners, building officials, and local planning commissioners.  It should also be useful to municipal attorneys charged with assisting in the creation or updating of local sign regulations.

The Michigan Sign Guidebook published in 2011 replaces the one prepared by Mark Wyckoff in 1989 for the then Michigan Society of Planning Officials (now Michigan Association of Planning). The Sign Guidebook:

  • addresses a wide range of issues associated with local sign regulation with a major focus on legal issues and how communities can develop sign ordinances that minimize legal risks;
  • includes information on how to regulate different sign types, as well as approaches to sign regulation that preserve “content neutrality,” a critical issue under federal First Amendment law; and
  • focuses on ensuring signs meet the practical functional purposes for which signs are created, while preventing clutter and where feasible, enhancing the scenic quality of a community.

For more information, download the guidebook brochure or contact Scenic Michigan at info@scenicmichigan.org or at (231) 753-8116.

About the Authors

Mark Wyckoff, former Director of the Planning and Zoning Center at MSU, led the project and is a co-author. Brian Connolly a law student at the University of Michigan (who has two degrees in urban planning) assisted on the Guidebook along with a large advisory committee made up of Michigan local planning practitioners, attorneys and members of the Scenic Michigan Board. Retired City of Troy Planning Director, Larry Keisling coordinated the project for Scenic Michigan, where he is a board member. In addition, the two leading national experts in sign law are assisted the project team with guidance on challenging federal sign legal issues: Professor Daniel Mandelker and Professor Allan Weinstein. Gerald Fisher, professor at Cooley Law School is providing similar assistance with regard to Michigan law.

Reed v. Town of Gilbert

The Michigan Sign Guidebook is over 150 pages in length and very thorough. Chapters include important topics for today such as: Contemporary Sign Issues, Legal Context and Constitutional Considerations, Ten Regulatory Principles, Special Cases and Problems, Nonconforming Signage, Review of Model Ordinances from a Michigan Perspective, and others dealing with critical sign regulation issues.  The current version still provides strong guidance to Michigan communities seeking to update their sign ordinances. While it does not explicitly cite the landmark 2015 case Reed v. Town of Gilbert (since it was published prior to this ruling), the guidance provided within the current Guidebook is consistent with that ruling. However, we are seeking to rectify this situation. We are preparing an addendum to the Guidebook that will provide specific guidance on this case and a growing number of issues related to digital signage. We anticipate the addendum will be completed by the end of 2019.  In the meantime, feel free to reach out to us if you have any specific questions related to these issues (or others). We’re here to help.