Friday, June 28, 2013

Signs All Around Us

When looking out the window of a moving car or when walking down a busy street, what do you typically see? Generally you'll see homes, businesses or other similar buildings. But how do you know what they are? It's because of the sign letters that you may be able to see on the outside or above on a billboard. I'm sure you're saying, "no, my home doesn't have any signs on it". But what about your address? The numbers on the outside of your house that make it stand out from all the other houses.

There are other signs to show you the time or even the weather forecast. The other types of signs you see could be huge advertisements. These can be large over the top computerized signs, or even just handmade paper displays advertising a yard sale. Is the world becoming so over advertized that when you can look up in the sky and see not a bird, but a plane trailing an advertising banner, a blimp with printed advertising, or even skywriting? Is this the only way we know how to express ourselves and how to get our point across?

We also need sign letters. when we are traveling. How do you know which road to take if you don't know which road you are on, which exit is the nearest rest room, or a road leading to your destination? These are very important things, especially when traveling long distances. Besides directing traffic on the outside of buildings, signs can also do the same on the inside of buildings. If you're in a hospital or airport, you can almost always look up and see a sign pointing you in a direction with a little map of where else you can go from there.

Sign letters can be very helpful even to those who can not see. That may not make any sense, but the use of Braille as signage is extremely important to people in this day and age. On that note, if you're watching a T.V. show and see the words being written out at the bottom of the screen that some of us take for granted. Other ways that we use signage: a restaurant can display the dish of the day with changeable letter signs, or even with a computerized digital version. Those are becoming increasingly popular with many businesses. What other display do you need to make a choice for your meal before you even enter the restaurant?

Without a scoreboard at sporting events you may have a hard time keeping track of the score. In those sorts of stadiums you also have arrows, like in an airport, that will direct you to your correct departure gate. Traffic control signs can also help to block off traffic from an accident and save others from suffering the same fate. Without signage or display sign letters, it could become increasingly difficult to get through certain aspects of the day as you travel around.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Clifton's Cafeteria--Those Days are Long Gone

Clifton's Cafeteria in Los Angeles
The days of the hometown cafeteria are over, I mean...well...with the exception of Hometown Buffet, which is nothing like the old-style privately owned cafeterias of yesteryear.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Monday, May 06, 2013

Signs Immune to Destruction

Delmar Movie Palace is closed, but sign remains   Photo by Matthew Bamberg
What makes one neon sign immune to the wrecking ball and another one still left standing is a matter of fate and luck. Suburban areas that are quickly gentrified are the first to see the signs go.

In Miami, for example, a few lucky areas have been preserved as districts where both the architecture and signage has been preserved. But outside these areas major rebuilding has taken place without regard to preservation.

The city of Paris saves just about every sign and building ever erected, while the city of London does not.

World globalization and corporate control of the land in much of the world is bad news for old neon and politics plays a major role in any preservation program.

In the city of Los Angeles the Neon Museum (MONA) hosts a program to save and repair the neon so that the signs of yesteryear still glow.

Sunday, May 05, 2013

Road Runner

Road Runner Motel in Gallup, New Mexico  Photo by Matthew Bamberg

Who doesn't love a roadrunner. Throughout the Western United States, the bird is revered for it's sleek body and long tail. Homage to the lovely bird exists in signage in a few spots of the region.

Friday, May 03, 2013

Steel and Neon—The Makings of a Sign

Hill Top Motel, Kingman, AZ
Neon’s kinetic radiance turned the great sign of the mid-century into a symbol of American optimism that spread throughout the world. The reddish orange glow in the word Hill Top above was achieved in a vacuum discharge tube. The makings of a sign begin with displacing air in tubes with neon.

First, the sign maker bends the tubes, a tricky, yet artistic task as each letter must conform to the other and like letters must be bent in exactly the same shape.

To make the neon glow, an electric current must flow thorough the tube. The colors depend on the mixture of gasses inside the tube, usually neon, argon and mercury.

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Blue Skies Trailer Park Sign at an Angle

Blue Skies Trailer Park sign near Santa Barbara, CA   Photo by Matthew Bamberg
One of the coolest neon signs that remains standing in Southern California. Anybody know the history of this one?

Monday, April 29, 2013

Pot Leaf in Neon--Is Marijuana Signage Increasing?

Pot leaf in neon   Photo by Matthew Bamberg
Well, then. Here's a pot leaf. Creating and displaying a marijuana neon sign is not illegal in most places. Most of the time it's an irony when you see one because it's usually displayed in places where pot isn't sold (hemp-made items are a possibility)--like head shops that sell the paraphernalia, but not the weed.

In my town the marijuana dispensaries wouldn't dare display something like this outside their business (I live in Palm Springs, CA) because it would attract too much attention. The only evidence of there being a business that deals in medical marijuana is a storefront with nothing on it or some innocuous sign with the word "organic" written on it.

Since I don't live in Colorado or Washington state, I have no idea about what's happening the marijuana signage. Since it's legal there, perhaps pot shops don't have to be shy about saying what they are.

In some places in California (like the Coachella Valley where Palm Springs is located) there are far too many people who would object to these signs for them to be put up in front of pot shops. But that still doesn't mean that they're not used in other types of shops. They're also popular in stores that sell clothes that's made of hemp.

Guess I have to take a trip to Boulder, Colorado to see what's happening with signage advertising marijuana.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Story of RCA's Nipper--"The Master's Voice"

RCA Victor's dog, "Nipper"
A character molded in plastic, neon and steel in roadside signage play an important role of attracting the passersby, who can be lured inside by a figure outside. One of the best examples of the characters coming alive lies with RCA Victor's mascot, Nipper.

Nipper became associated with the service and products that RCA offered in  the early part of the 20th century.

No where is the matched or unmatched association between product and business evident than the phonograph-listening dog Nipper of RCA Victor fame, who was created back in 1910 when the company was known as Victor Talking Machine Company.

Nipper became the lifelong best friend of the company, so much so that signage that included him in the 1950s the dog sat alone without the phonograph (see RCA image). The dog alone became a lasting symbol of the company. His voice was labeled "The Master's Voice."