History of Signs – from Roman Columns to Digital Signage

The growth of digital signage and use of innovations such as plasma screens and LCD enclosures has caused a revolution but this is nothing new in the history of signage.

Signs have been around since human beings first began expressing themselves by drawing in caves. Whilst most of these images were probably ritualistic or spiritual in nature symbolism has become a huge part of human communication,

The word sign derives from the ancient Latin ‘signum’ which meant mark or token but it was the Romans (who else) that first recognised the usefulness of signs and adopted the first road-sign system where columns etched with Roman numerals sat on the roadside to indicate direction and distances.

Signs developed throughout civilisations as an important part of communicating, merchants soon discovered the use of carvings, bright paint, ornamental iron and even gilding encouraged would draw in more customers than there competition but it wasn’t until the industrial revolution and the development of motor cars did signage become essential for our safety in allowing us to safely go about our business.

The use of signs for promotional purposes has always been around with shopkeepers ensuring their name was above the door of their business, however in 1929 when a car salesman in the US ordered the first neon signs, a new revolution in signage began. People came from all over America to see the ‘dancing fire’ and following the success the use of neon lights soon spread across the continent and the rest of the world.

More developments such as LED lighting were developed. This allowed for the fist time signs that could carry different messages such as ‘road open’ or ‘road closed’ and became an extremely valuable tool in road safety.

Now another revolution in signage is beginning thanks to the plummeting costs of LCD and plasma TV technology. Now digital signage using LCD and plasmas is spreading with more and more uses for this new digital signage being exploited everyday.

We are now even seeing the growth of outdoor digital signage made possible due largely to the waterproof LCD and LCD enclosures available to protect the devices. If current trend continues then it is quite possible that previous signage innovations such as neon and LED will soon be replaced by digital signage.

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