On Neon Signs

By Marcus D. Niski

There is something elegant and peculiarly captivating about neon signs: they have a certain memorizing quality about them no matter how seemingly mundane their messages might be.

My earliest memory of a viewing my first neon sign was that of the ‘The Skipping Girl’ one of Melbourne’s most famous visual landmarks – in reality an elaborate promotional sign for a brand of table vinegar – located along Victoria Street, Abbotsford in the city’s inner suburbs.

While always very low key about it, my father in fact spent some of his early working life in Australia as a graphic designer of neon signs designing several landmark signs as well as later printing light box signage for national advertisers.

Many years ago in the 1990s whilst living in Sydney, I took this photograph of the St James Station entrance located on the northern side of Hyde Park. It has always remained one of my favorite photographs of neons given the electric blue and red hue set against the mundane entrance to one of Sydney’s famous inner-city stations.

stjames1995mn-e1510181640331.jpg Image © Marcus D. Niski 1995-2017

Melbourne’s famous ‘Skipping Girl’ landmark:

On Signage

Sometimes kitsch. Sometimes haunting. Sometimes enchanting. Sometimes banal. Often evocative of places and spaces familiar to us in our everyday encounters with the urban world. A neon sign in a favorite cafe, a vintage enameled sign sporting the logo of a long defunct motor oil company, an art deco sign with its delicately stylish elements, a hand painted apothecary’s sign from the middle ages or an intricate wrought iron sign with exquisite handmade lattice work: signage comes in a myriad number of designs, shapes and forms.

– Marcus D. Niski