Poland’s Neon Muzeum, Vintage Neon Signage, just beautiful elegant illuminated typography
Poland’s First Neon Museum – which is dedicated to the documentation and preservation of Poland’s cold war era neon signs.
Many of the Cold War-era neon signage featured in this article have been captured by photographer Ilona Karwińksa and can can be found on display at the Neon Muzeum in Warsaw, Poland. http://www.neonmuzeum.org
The marks of an earlier, simpler time in commercial advertising in which flashy LEDs have not yet been invented, these beautiful, hand-made neon signs are presented with elegant, masterful typography. Giving type a three-dimensional, vibrant quality, these looping and colourful glass tubes are a fascinating example of how newer does not necessarily mean better.
If you will not be making your to Neon Muzeum in Warsaw to see these neon exhibits any time soon, you can always grab a copy Karwińksa’s book, Polish Neon.
Polish Neon: Cold War Typography and Design tells the fascinating story of neon in Poland by preserving and celebrating the remnants of this rich and influential history. Comprising archival and contemporary photographs of these mesmerizing signs, as well as original designs and interviews with the designers, this book reveals an untold story of Poland and how a communist bureaucracy helped shape the future of graphic design and typography.
In 1929, the first neon sign in Poland went up in Warsaw. Popular from the start, the earliest neon signs were made to order—free in design, shape, color and significantly influencing other forms of advertising like poster design and typography. When the Communist regime gained power after World War II, it took a controlled interest in the medium of neon, going so far as to create Reklama, a state-run company for advertising services that held a monopoly on exterior advertising throughout Poland.
Designed and built by prominent architects, graphic designers, and artists and overseen by a chief graphic designer, Polish neon signage was renowned for its outstanding technical and artistic qualities. During its peak, Reklama maintained over 1,000 neon signs, whose playfulness and folly stood out in the otherwise dark and oppressed Poland, ornamenting otherwise drab cities and towns. Today, most of the neon signs are gone, too expensive and fragile to maintain; belonging to no one, all that remains of them are their ghostly weathered “shadows.”