A Brief Overview of the Evolution of Neon Signage

What do you see when you think of a neon light sign? Is it a glowing flamingo that points you to a bar or tiki? Are you referring to the neon sign in your favorite diner’s window? It’s not unusual to feel nostalgic when you imagine neon images. Neon signs are a symbol of past days and shine like no other light source.

In this post, we will look at the colorful history of neon signage from its popularity in America up to its decline.

What is a Neon Sign?

A neon sign can be described as a cold-cathode fluorescent lamp. A typical neon sign is made of glass tubes that contain neon gas and small amounts of argon. While neon is often used to indicate signs of different colors and styles, it doesn’t produce all the colors. A yellow “neon sign” is, in fact, made with helium. On the other hand, neon gas is used to make red neon signs. The neon signs are used to add accent lighting to buildings or draw attention to a product/service.

Who invents neon signs?

It would not be fair to say that only one person made neon signs. Instead, neon signs came about through the work of many inventors and chemists. Before neon signage was created, it took many years of experimentation and trial and error. These are the top contributors to the creation of neon signs.

1. William Ramsay and Morris W. Travers

In the 1800s Scottish chemist William Ramsay, along with Morris W. Travers, searched for rare hidden gases in the air. Ramsay and Travers discovered that neon was also found in liquefied argon. Each of these gases emits a unique bright color when they are contained in a glass tube that is charged with high voltage. The basis of neon lamps was created from their discovery.

2. Georges Claude

Georges Claude, an inventor, used similar techniques to liquefy water and produced large quantities of industrial products. L’Air Liquide was his first company, and it quickly became a multinational corporation.

In his quest to discover new things, Claude also sold liquid oxygen. Ramsay seemed to have discovered everything, so Claude realized there was nothing to pull from the oxygen. He decided to put his efforts into other areas, like resolving the problem of excessively bright electric lighting. To find alternative light sources, he turned to neon, which he had made from the liquefaction.

Claude used Daniel McFarlan Moore’s idea of sending electricity through a tube made of gas-filled glass to create bright white light. Claude improved Moore’s invention by adding larger electrodes to keep them cooler for longer periods of time and replacing Moore’s use of neon with neon. Claude’s neon lamps lasted hundreds upon hours and were bright and consistent.

Claude applied for a patent to light neon in 1910. Claude admitted that while red neon is not a good choice of lighting for general purposes, it can be used as a decorative light to grab attention.

How do neon signs work?

The neon sign glows because of the electric current that passes through it. The conductivity of electricity is not a problem for gases. For a current of electricity to flow through, a gas like neon must be contained in a gas discharge tube. A gas-discharge tube consists of a glass tube sealed with electrodes. A voltage is applied to the electrodes to raise the gas pressure so that an electric current can flow through it. The electric current lights up the gas. The neon gas emits red while other gases produce different colors, such as yellow or blue.

A skilled craftsman will teach you how to make a neon sign. It involves heat to bend glass tubes in a specific pattern, attaching electrodes to them, and then pumping in gases to remove any impurities. This is a complicated process that requires skill and practice.

When did neon signage become so popular?

Georges Claude ignited the popularity of neon signs when he put up the first advertising sign for a Parisian barbershop in 1912. Other businesses, like the Paris Opera, began to want the same attractive exteriors. To grow, Claude created the company Claude Neon to sell franchises for neon signs. Dozens upon dozens of franchises were opened all over the world.

Earle C. Anthony owned a Packard Motor Car Company dealership and was responsible for the first American neon signs being installed in Los Angeles. Anthony had been to Paris in 1923 and had noticed Claude’s signs. He had two signs custom-made for his downtown showroom. The elegant, orange neon signs that read “Packard” cost less than a car and were about half the cost of a new car. According to some reports, the signs caused traffic jams due to their captivating nature. In the 1920s it was difficult to drive by Packard’s showroom without stopping to look at the hypnotic neon signs.

In the United States, neon signs became very popular and became a symbol of modern industry and progress. They were originally designed to draw travelers using interstate highways. In the 1930s, neon signs were common to advertise gas stations, motels, or diners in America. The neon signs in vibrant cities such as New York, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and other metropolitan areas were used to lure customers to dance, gamble and eat at restaurants, bars, and even the cinemas.

The popularity of neon signs began to decline after World War II. Many business owners were unable to afford to replace damaged neon signs. They instead chose to use plastics and fluorescent tubes to replace them. Plastic signs are less costly and are easier to maintain than neon ones. Neon signs were also associated with rundown motels and other unsavory establishments. The 1970s saw a small revival in neon signs, which is still evident today. The modern neon signs are small and often used to advertise beer or announce the opening of a store.

Why aren’t neon signs being used anymore?

In bars and homes throughout the country, neon indoor signage is still available. For many reasons, however, businesses have moved to other types of illuminated signage.

  • Signs with neon are costly.
  • Experiential artisans are needed to make custom neon signs.
  • Neon signs can be more fragile than other types of signs and are therefore harder to replace.
  • The added argon may make neon signs less reliable in colder weather.
  • Neon signs can be heavier than other sign materials.
  • Neon signs are less flexible than modern signs.

Neon signs may not be as popular as once they were, but there is still a deep love for neon glows. There are museums that display neon signs, as well as neon signs advertising businesses in nail salons and restaurants throughout the country.

Alternatives to Neon Signage

Neon signs have a unique glow that is unmatched by any other light source. But they can be very restrictive compared to modern signs. Here are some alternatives to neon signage. They captivate the eye and do more than just light up the sky.

1. LED Signs

While LEDs emit a mesmerizing glow, similar to neon, they have higher efficiency and are longer lasting. LEDs are tiny and can mix red, blue, and green to create white light. Many LED signs can be used in stores, restaurants, and other businesses to promote sales, new products, and events. To attract customers or relay messages, many business owners put large LED signs out in the open. You can adjust the advertisement on a programmable led sign to fit your needs and reach customers in any way you like, unlike neon signs. Here are some more reasons that businesses should switch to LED signage.

  • Energy-saving LEDs emit light in a certain direction which reduces the use of light-trapping reflections. They are the most energy-saving light source available and consume 75 percent less energy per hour than incandescent lights. In the United States, they could save more than $30 Billion annually by 2027 if widespread use is continued.
  • Durable LEDs can last up to 25 times longer than traditional incandescent lights. LEDs don’t require you to replace bulbs as frequently as other types of lighting, which saves time and money. Neon signs required skills and time to replace or fix parts.
  • emits little heat: LEDs don’t produce a lot more heat than other lighting forms that may release up to 90% of their energy as heat.
  • Lower impact: LEDs are free of mercury. However, neon signs may contain tiny amounts of mercury, which could pose a danger to the environment. The Environmental Protection Agency encourages homeowners to contact local agencies for information about recycling a neon light bulb rather than throwing it away.
  • High visibility: LEDs are reliable and easy to maintain. They also have long lifespans so business owners don’t have to worry about LED neon signs breaking down as frequently as other lighting sources. This means that they are visible all day. LEDs are also able to withstand cold temperatures, unlike neon signs which may need time to warm up.
  • Bright and attractive: LED neon signs can be brightened up with movement or bright colors. LED signs are easy to see and, like neon signs, can be difficult to miss.

Business owners have the option to create advertisements using backlit graphics. Backlit graphics can be created using LED lights, frames, or fabric overlays with custom neon sign designs and messages. They are also known by the name lightboxes. These graphics can be used anywhere there is power. Backlit graphics can be used to draw customers in and make your business stand out from the crowd.

2. Digital Signs

The power of digital signage is available to business owners. Digital signage allows you to modify the information that is being displayed at any moment. You can project an animated video, a schedule of events, or any other type of information you wish. Digital signage can be used to hold customers’ attention and feel familiar, much like a TV. Digital signage offers business owners full control over what content they share. Here are some additional benefits:

  • Have flexibility. It’s not necessary to purchase a brand-new sign for every product or service you wish to promote. Digital signage has many possibilities. You can create animations, and videos, share news, and display photos.
  • Get noticed A Nielsen study, 2015 found that 75 percent of visitors noticed a billboard on their way to work, while 55 percent saw the message at least once a day. Digital signage makes an impression and stands out.
  • Inform, excite, and inspire: According to the same survey, 61% of respondents agreed that digital billboards were a great way to learn about events and sales. This indicates that digital signage is a good way to market a business.
  • Enhance brand recall: Eighty-two percent of respondents recall advertising on digital billboards. Go digital if you want people to remember and love your brand.
  • Customer satisfaction is a priority: Digital signs offer a multitude of opportunities to make customers happy. First, they make life easier. Bright menu boards make it easier for customers to navigate menu options. This makes them more efficient and helps them make better choices. Illuminated menus can also attract outside customers. Staff will find it much easier to use digital signs that can change with the seasons, days, and months.
  • Make customers more comfortable: There are many locations where digital signs can be used, from waiting rooms in hospitals to lobby areas in hotels. For example, you can share helpful tips with patients waiting in line. You can also use digital signage to direct people around large buildings. Digital signs are easy to spot and work well in any environment.
  • Make your promotions stand out. Are there big sales? Have you just launched a new product? With a digital sign, you can create excitement and get customers to buy.

SpeedPro is your source for Neon Sign Alternatives

Displays that stand out are high-quality and will get your business noticed. SpeedPro can transform your vision into a jaw-dropping sign. Our team will collaborate with you to create a custom sign solution that stands out from the rest. Visit one of our studios today to make your mark.

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