Tuesday, March 2, 2021

American Calligraphy #10: Neon

ABCs of the USA: The stories behind America’s most distinctive calligraphy styles. 

Neon capitals. 
Introduced to the US in 1923, neon lighting had spread from New York City to Las Vegas by the 1930s, to become synonymous with America's flashy advertising and glamorous nightlife. 

Gradually eclipsed by today's programmable giant screens, "classic" neon signs show the designer's ingenuity in transforming glass tubes into letters. Many neon signs imitate continuous lines of connected script, while individual capital letters can either be made with separate segments or the lines are "interrupted" with heavy black paint.  

It's fun to look carefully at signs made of neon tubes, and see how each one solves the fundamental design challenges. Keep your eyes open and pay attention to surviving examples of this luminous art. Each one is custom-made. A recent book, Almost Lost Arts, profiles a handful of remaining artisans who are dedicated to preserving old neon signs as historic national treasures. And when you're next in Las Vegas, visit the Neon Museum (or take a virtual tour, though it charges a fee)

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