Signage refers to any visual graphics that deliver information to a particular audience, and you will find that they are as old as the history of human civilization. You might be surprised, but the most primitive signs date back to 3000 B.C, and since then signage industry has advanced immensely.
If you want to know regarding the evolution of signage, below are the eras of signage industry development.
Early Civilization and Signage
The inception of outdoor signs dates back to Roman and Greek eras, which impressively developed from 3000 BC to 500 AD. Like every business needs outdoor signage today, almost all the shops and organizations at that time also had an outdoor advertisement. Archaeologists have found these in very good conditions in many old cities as well as in the remains of Pompeii.
The eras saw signs made of wood, leather, stone, and Terra cottar. The information was presented with the help of images instead of texts because public was largely illiterate back then. Special symbols were used by sign makers for different establishments like shops and taverns. The more luxurious organizations like bathhouses used more lavish materials such as copper, bronze, marble, etc.
The inception of Logo in Signage
After the conclusion of 12th century, there was an economic refurbishment period. Rich artisans and traders had their own signs, while some of them also had their particular symbols, which were designed to make them visible, among others. These symbols were the logos of that time.
In fact, since the 17th century, every business and institution had to have a sign that would represent their services according to the English laws. For example, a bakery had a sign with a symbol of bread or a shoemaker with the symbol of a shoe.
Materials like iron, wood, and textiles were widely used for making signs in that era. However, letters were still found very seldom, as majority of people did not know how to read.
With the advent of 18th century, the outdoor signs got bigger and heavier, and history also has proof that a few accidents were caused by heavy signs that were fixed across the roads.
The Advent of Electric Signs
The 19th century brought us electric signage. The first illuminated sign was lit by gas and was manufactured in Chicago, Illinois, for P. T. Barnum Museum in year 1840. The Sign offered illumination of straight 5 hours, and seeing the effectiveness of electric signs, gas-illuminated signs spread all across Europe and America. It was a retail store, banks, or theatre marquees, all used electric signs to benefit their businesses.
Here is the further advancement in electric signage;
The first sign lit up with incandescent bulbs was crafted in 1881 and read, “EDISON.” The sign was exhibited at International Electrical Exposition in 1882.
Afterward, the night display was created by Americans, which gave life to the era of electric signs in America. Merchants realized that electric signs are a more effective style of advertising than newspapers and others, which expanded the use of electric signs.
In 1910, one the most famous electric sign in the history of signs was positioned in New York City. It was the great chariot race sign put on show on the roof of a towering building. The signage featured 20.000 light bulbs in several colors, and it featured moving horses that were accomplished by blinking the bulbs 25.000 times per minute.
George Claude is the guy responsible for discovering Neon gas in the early 1900s, and he is also the one who made the neon tubes signs possible. Claude had mastered the Neon tube by 1910 and got the idea of bending these tubes to form letters. And so, neon tube letters were spread widely among signs in the USA in 1920s. However, these tubes were limited in color, which was a big disadvantage.
The signage industry stepped in the production of fluorescent illuminated signs by 1930. This new development allowed sign manufacturers to bend the tubes into any shape and produce them in more colors.
The Beginning of Plastic Signs
The 40s and 50s saw a period of great economic blast. It was a time when plastic was very easy to find. It was also the time when the manufacturers had improved the process of constructing quality plastics. Thus, we saw a rise in plastic signage; it was not only cheap but also required very little maintenance.
Moreover, plastic could be used with fluorescent bulbs as well as neon technology to create more complex signs. By 1960s, these signs could be seen the world over. The most prevalent plastic-type was acrylic, and almost every business had an Acrylic Sign with illumination or without.
Afterward, other kinds of outdoor advertisements also became popular which included flags, banners, and A-frame Signs, which also led to the inception of many signage companies.
The Beginning of Digital Signage
Now is the era of digital signage. In 80s and 90s, analog video signs were very popular. You could easily find video monitors in stores exhibiting retail signage with VHS videotapes. With advent of DVDs, the digital era started. The DVDs were played on cathode-ray-tube TV monitors.
The modern digital signage took shape with the advent of flat-panel displays in the early 2000s and computer-driven signage players. Today, businesses use flat-panel screens and have swapped Blu-ray and DVD discs with computer-driven signage players, which you may also know as media players. This is the heart of a digital sign that allows for content to be centrally controlled, dynamic and updated in seconds.
The Current Signage Industry
Today the signage industry has progressed to a whole new level. Modern printers and materials have allowed to produce perfect signs with the quality of these materials and inks only getting better and better with time.
In this day and age, the selection of the materials is varied than before, with materials like PYC, Di bond, Ultra board, Foam board, and so on. The same goes for the colors; now you can easily pick a custom color for your sign, whether it is for paint or ink for printing. You can get illuminated signs that work 24/7 with LED bulbs that save energy while giving a cleaner and brighter light.
Today, a business owner can also select from various types of signage. Whether it is for indoors or outdoors, you can get channel letters to show the name of the company on the building or get classically printed banners to draw attention. Furthermore, today’s signs do more than just giving a business an identity; they also serve as a means of decoration, too, with unique and custom decorative signs.
Every business small or big needs signage to increase brand awareness, stand out among the crowd of competitors, and display their products and services. Reading the history of signage evolution, we can conclude that it is an essential part of any business which even the earliest civilization knew.