What do you picture when you think about a neon sign? What do you see? A glowing flamingo leads you to a tiki bar. Do you remember the neon sign that hung in the window at your favorite diner? You’re not the only one who feels nostalgic when you think of neon images. The glow of neon signs is a reminder of the past and evokes a sense of nostalgia.
This post will explore the colorful history and future of neon signs. We’ll discuss their popularity in America, as well as the reasons they are disappearing into the past.
What is a neon sign?
A neon sign refers to a cold cathode fluorescent light (CCFL). A neon sign typically consists of neon gas-filled glass tubes and some argon gas. Neon is used to refer to signs that are different colors but it does not produce all colors. A yellow neon sign, for example, is made of helium and not neon. Neon gas is used to create neon signs. Neon signs are often used to highlight building features, draw attention to products or services, or as accent lighting.
Who invented neon signs?
It would be unfair to claim that one person invented neon signs. Instead, neon signs were created over time by several inventors and chemists. After years of trial and error, neon signage finally became a reality. These are some of the notable contributors to neon signage’s invention.
1. William Ramsay, Morris W. Travers
In the 1800s, Scottish Chemist William Ramsay searched the air for rare and hidden gases with his colleague Morris W. Travers. Ramsay and Travers found neon in 1898 by isolating the gases from liquefied argon. When these gases are placed in glass tubes and charged with high voltage, each one emits a distinct brilliant color. They were the inspiration for neon lamps.
2. Georges Claude
Georges Claude, the inventor, also developed techniques to liquefy air and made large quantities for industrial purposes. L’Air Liquide, which he founded in 1902, quickly became a multinational company.
In the hope of making discoveries, Claude did research while selling liquid oxygen. After Ramsay had found it all, Claude found that there was little left to pull out of the air. He chose to concentrate on other issues, such as resolving the issue of excessively bright electrical lighting. To create an alternative source of light, he used neon leftover from his liquefaction.
Claude used the idea of Daniel McFarlan Moore, an inventor, to send an electric current through a glass tube filled with gas to produce bright white light. Claude enhanced Moore’s invention by using larger electrodes, which stayed cooler for longer and substituting the neon gases used by Moore. Claude’s neon lamps lasted hundreds of hours, and they burned brightly and steadily.
Claude was granted a patent in 1910 for neon lighting. Claude acknowledged that red neon was not a good option for general lighting, but it is perfect to be used as a decorative light.
How do neon signs work?
Neon signs work because an electrical current passes through the gas, making it glow. Gases are not capable of conducting electricity by themselves. To allow a current to flow through a gas-discharge tub, a gas such as neon must be contained. A gas-discharge tube is a tube made of glass sealed with electrodes. The electrodes are subject to a voltage that causes the gas pressure to rise to a point where an electric current can flow through the tube. The electric current makes the gas glow. While neon emits red, other gases can produce colors like yellow and blue.
You will need to master difficult techniques from an expert craftsman to make a neon sign. This involves heating glass tubes to form a pattern and attaching electrodes. Gases are then pumped into the tubes to remove impurities. It’s a complex process that takes practice and skill.
What was the first time neon signage became popular?
Georges Claude was the one who ignited neon signs’ popularity in 1912 when he placed the first neon sign in a Parisian barbershop. The neon signs were soon adopted by other businesses such as the Paris Opera. To keep growing, Claude founded the company Claude Neon. He sold franchises for neon signs. There were dozens of franchises around the globe.
Earle C. Anthony, a Packard Motor Car Company dealer, was the one who created the first American neon signs. Anthony had seen Claude’s signs in Paris in 1923 and he ordered two signs for his downtown showroom. These elegant neon orange signs, which read “Packard”, cost half the price of a car. They were so striking that they caused traffic jams. It was difficult to drive past the Packard showroom in the 1920s without stopping to admire the hypnotic neon signs.
The popularity of neon signs in America exploded quickly and they soon became a symbol of progress and modern industry. The neon signs were designed to be seen by travelers traveling on interstate highways. You could find neon signs advertising gas stations, motels, and diners throughout the country if you were a traveler during the 1930s. In New York City, Los Angeles, and Las Vegas, neon signs were a common feature that enticed customers to eat, gamble, and go to the movies.
Around World War II, neon’s popularity began to drop. Many business owners didn’t want to spend money to fix damaged signs so they replaced them with plastic signs and fluorescent tubes. Plastic signs are cheaper and more cost-effective than neon signs. People began to associate neon signs as being associated with rundown motels, sleazy bars, and other unsavory establishments. There was a revival of neon signs in the 1970s that continues to this day. Neon signs of today are typically small and used to announce store openings or advertise beer.
Why are neon signs not being used anymore?
You can still find neon indoor signage in bars and homes all over the country. Many businesses are switching to illuminated signage because of a variety of reasons, including:
- Signs made of neon are very expensive.
- Experienced artisans are required to create custom neon signs.
- Neon signs are more susceptible to damage than other sign materials, and they are also harder to replace.
- Because of the additional argon, neon signs might not work in cold conditions.
- Signs made of neon are usually heavier than other materials.
- Modern signs are more flexible than neon signs.
Although neon signs aren’t as well-known as they once were, there is still a strong appreciation for the neon glow. Museums that preserve neon signs can be found in cities and towns. You’ll also find neon signs advertising businesses, from nail salons and restaurants to neon signs in other places.
Alternatives to Neon Signage
The unique glow of neon signs is unlike any other light source. They are however very limited in comparison to modern signs. These are some alternatives to neon signs and how they capture the attention of those who see them.
1. LED Signs
LEDs produce a beautiful glow that is similar to neon, but they are more efficient and last longer. LEDs are small and often mix red, green, and blue to make white light. Many LED signs are lighter than neon signs and can be used to promote sales, new products, and other events within a shop, restaurant, or any other establishment. Many business owners place large LED signs outside to draw customers and relay messages. A programmable LED sign can be customized to meet your needs. These are just a few reasons why businesses choose LED signage.
- Energy-saving: LEDs emit light in a particular direction, which reduces the need to use light-trapping reflectors. They are 75 percent more energy-efficient than incandescent lighting and are among the most efficient light sources. The U.S. could see more than $30 billion in savings by the widespread adoption of LED lighting by 2027.
- Durable: LEDs last 25 times longer than incandescent lighting. LEDs are much more cost-effective than other light sources and you won’t need to change bulbs as often, which can save time and money. Neon signs require skill and time to repair or replace parts.
- Do not emit heat: LEDs don’t emit much heat, unlike other forms of lighting that can release as high as 90 percent of their energy.
- Low impact: LEDs don’t contain mercury. However, some neon signs can contain small amounts of mercury that could be dangerous to the environment. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), encourages residents to contact local agencies to recycle neon lamps, rather than tossing them in the trash.
- Reliable visibility: LEDs have a long life span and are easy to maintain. Business owners can be confident that their signs will always be visible. LEDs can also be used in cold conditions, unlike neon signs which might take some time to heat up.
- Attractive and bright: Some LED neon signs make use of movement or bright colors to draw attention. LED neon signs can be hard to miss, and they are a joy to look at.
Creating advertisements for businesses using backlit graphics is also an option. Backlit graphics are made with LED lights, frames, and fabric overlays that can be interchangeably woven to display custom designs and messages. These are also called lightboxes. They can be used indoors or outdoors, and they can be powered by any power source. Businesses that wish to stand out in a crowd and attract customers with backlit graphics can do so easily.
2. Digital Signs
Digital signage provides business owners with power that is unmatched by any other light source. You can update the information on a digital sign at any time. This includes animated videos, calendars of events, menu items, and anything else you can think of. Digital signage is easy to read and holds customers’ attention. It feels like a TV. Digital signage allows business owners to control the content that they share. These are just a few of the many benefits that digital signage offers:
- Flexibility: What could be easier than creating content from a computer and then sending it to a custom neon sign? You don’t need to buy a new sign each time you advertise a new product or service. Digital signage offers endless possibilities. You can make animations and videos, share information, display photos, and many other things.
- Get noticed According to a Nielsen survey from 2015, 75% of respondents noticed a digital billboard the month before the survey and 55% noticed the message most of the time. Digital signage is distinctive and makes an impact.
- Inform and excite: The same survey found that 61 percent of respondents believe digital billboards are an effective way to learn more about sales and events. Digital signage can be a great way to promote your business.
- Increase brand recall: Eighty-two percent of respondents to a survey recalled advertising on digital billboards. Digital billboards are a great way to make people remember your brand.
- Increase customer satisfaction with Digital signage. There are many ways to make customers happy. They make it easier. Bright menu boards, for example, make it easy for customers to see the options and make decisions faster. Illuminated menus are also a great way to attract customers from outside. Staff can program digital signs to change according to the season, day, or month. This makes it easier for them to work efficiently.
- Make customers feel comfortable: You can use digital signs in many places, including waiting rooms and hotel lobby areas. Digital signage can be used to communicate health tips with patients while they wait. Digital signage can also be used to guide people through large buildings. Digital signage is easy to use and can be placed in any environment.
- Stand out in promotions: Are you running a huge sale? Is there a new product on the shelves? A digital sign can generate excitement and encourage customers to buy.
SpeedPro offers Neon Sign Alternatives
High-quality displays will give your business the attention it deserves. SpeedPro is excited to help you transform your vision into a stunning sign. We can make it stand out with striking backlit graphics displays or digital signage that advertises daily specials. Our team will help you find the right sign solution to make your business stand out amongst others. Stop by today if you are ready to be noticed.