Very few products and services have been in use longer than signs, and for centuries they have become an essential component in most industries. Lets take a look back to see how signage began and how it’s developed overtime to where it is today.
Symbolic advertising came into existence very early on when individuals banded together into tribes for mutual protection. Those who became especially skilled in producing products such as bows, arrows or utensils possibly drew a picture on the entrance of their huts indicating to others that they had products to exchange.
As competition across tribes increased, it became important to tell potential buyers where the products for exchange were located, and as trade developed the use of on-premise advertising was introduced.
From 3000 B.C and for more than 4,000 years thereafter during the Egyptian, Grecian and Roman civilizations, and through the middle ages, the use of advertising displays were the only important and effective advertising medium for businesses.
During the 17th and 18th century, streets in England were lined with colourful and artistic signboards. Shops began extending their signs further and further from their business to attract customers. These signs became larger and heavier which became a real danger to pedestrians, therefore regulations were brought in to control this problem.
Traders would compete for business by using larger and larger signs. Due to this increase in size a regulation was passed in 1761 that required signs to be fixed against shop walls and projection from buildings was limited to four inches.
The 1890’s produced several technical innovations, which would eventually accelerate the growth of the sign industry. Sir William Ramsay and William Travers discovered that combining a drop of mercury with neon gas produced a brilliant blue light and the luminous tube advertising was born.
By 1930, almost every city had neon signs with colours limited to the conventional red neon and mercury blue. Koch subsequently created a method of applying a fluorescent powder coating on the inner surface of glass tubes exposing the tubes to ultraviolet radiation. This increased the diversity in the design and production of signs.
Due to technological advances of the war, the sign industry demanded new designs, processes, finishes and materials. The introduction of coloured translucent plastics had a profound impact on the industry.
The use of plastics called for a new approach in sign design, fabrication and illumination. Due to the lower investment needed and lower skill set required in manufacturing plastic signs, hundreds of small sign companies were formed during the 1950’s.
Sign companies today are providing the same service to many businesses as the sign producers of ancient times did. The process hasn’t changed much in nearly 100 years, yet has continued to remain one of the most eye-catching forms of advertising.