Retro inspiration - 4 questions about neon lighting

04 of January '22

Neon lights are bold luminous creations that can easily enliven or accent an architectural space. Eye-catching brilliance, a plethora of color options and a reference to retro aesthetics - these lighting elements can make a space feel both modern and nostalgic. However, few recognize the valuable qualities of neon, and designers neglect their use due to their ubiquitous association with commercial signage. Today we explore how neon works, its history and how we can use it in our arrangements today.

Chińska ulica pełna
neonowych znaków

A Chinese street full of neon signs

© Mizanur Rahman

1 - How did it start?

Neon gas itself was discovered in 1898 and was named after the Greek word "neos," which meant "new gas." It was known as a rare noble gas, found in trace amounts in the atmosphere. The first neon lamp was invented by engineer and chemist Georges Claude. In 1923, the inventor and his company Claude Neon introduced neon lights to the United States, ushering in an era of neon decorations that shaped the aesthetics of American cities. The trend quickly became associated with outdoor advertising. Neon's influence wasn't limited to the United States, however - after it was first presented in Paris, neon signs were initially adopted by Parisian cinemas and clubs. Neon signs similarly developed in China in the 1920s and permanently changed Hong Kong's skyline in the mid-20th century. The signs combined ancient Chinese calligraphy with modern commercial aesthetics, also using cultural and narrative symbols.

Podświetlenie szklanych
luksfer wygląda bardzo stylowo

The illumination of the glass luxes looks very stylish

@ Pexels.com

2. where to use neon lights?

From its early history to today, neon has thus been deeply associated with modernity, cosmopolitan lifestyles and vitality. Today's designers can still use neon to appeal to these values, whether through words, symbols or abstract designs. Neon signs blend well with sleek, modern interior design. The right symbol or phrase, combined with the right interior complement, can bring the energy and vitality of a city even into a private room.
But with such a strong historical connection, evoking the early 20th century and treasured cultural symbols such as the old movie theater, Times Square and Las Vegas, neon has even more potential to create an atmosphere that transcends modern city life. The use of neon to illuminate the glass luxe is a real hit! Combined with exposed concrete, rustic bricks and plants, neon accents can create a beautiful retro atmosphere. Their glow will take you back to another time, while feeling current and modern.

3 - How does it work?

Neon is a colorless, odorless gas. It is inert under standard conditions, emitting an orange-red glow when placed in an electric field, suitable for use as lighting. Different colors are obtained by introducing different gases or applying different shades and luminophore coatings to glass tubes. For example, mercury discharge tubes produce blue light instead of orange.
Sm neon consists of a glass tube (or tubes) shaped in a particular pattern. At either end of the tube is an electrode - one negative, one positive. Inside the tube there is a small amount of neon gas. Due to the movement of electrons inside the glass tube, a colorful glow is emitted. Cutting off the flow of electricity restores the atoms to their normal state of inertia.

Obecnie neony coraz częściej
stosowane są we wnętrzach

Nowadays, neon lights are increasingly used in interiors

© Pexels

4. are there alternatives to using neon lights?

Yes. The main alternative is LED ne on - also called "faux-neon" - which uses LED technology to replicate the look of traditional neon. Instead, it doesn't have as many disadvantages. We can read more about the types of LED lights in also on our portal. The clearest difference between neon and led is how they generate light. Where neon relies on a chemical reaction between gases and electricity, in the case of LEDs the reaction occurs when electrons pass through a semiconductor. When used in signs, LEDs are placed close together to produce a constant source of light, similar to the effect of a neon tube glowing inside a glass tube. Many people prefer the warm glow of neon to the more solid LED light, however, the latter uses much less energy than neon and does not emit heat.

Elaboration: Dominika Tyrlik

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