Neon sign

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Listed neon sign from the 1950s on Bohlweg in Braunschweig
Neon sign at the Margon House in Dresden
Advertisement in Times Square (2008)

A neon sign is an electrically (also electronically controlled) illuminated advertising that is made by specialized sign makers.


Neon signs usually consist of a translucent sign behind which a light source (mostly fluorescent lamps , fluorescent tubes , and recently also light-emitting diodes and fluorescent foils ) is attached. Illumination using conventional fluorescent tube technology is no longer recommended, especially for large-area systems or profile letters with oversized dimensions, as the luminosity of LED solutions is now equivalent or better and the maintenance costs are significantly lower. Acrylic glass is often used for the covering, semi-transparent material , which is available in different colors in an opaque manner . Plexiglass is partially weatherproof, ultraviolet and daylight-resistant and can be cut very easily into contours with lasers . A disadvantage of acrylic , however, is the thermal expansion, so acrylic covers with slotted holes must be screwed so that the expansion can be absorbed. This leads to leakage and allows insects access to the light source, most of which perish inside the cover. This requires regular cleaning of the neon signs and is time-consuming. Lately, many systems have therefore been designed using ESG glass , with the glasses being glued all around to the base frame in order to keep the interior free of insects. This saves maintenance and cleaning effort and costs. Since most neon signs are provided with foils, foils on glass can also be replaced more easily and the lettering does not burn into glass.

Glass is more durable than acrylic, and foils and labels can easily be replaced over many years. Acrylic material becomes brittle over the years and can shatter under strong weather conditions such as direct sunlight or frost.

Another type of construction are letters of the name to be advertised from fluorescent tubes or cold cathode lamps . This often gives a better appearance, but is technically more complex. The cold cathode lamps must be fed with a high voltage .

Light emitting diodes or incandescent lamps can also be used to represent lettering. With light-emitting diodes (previously also with light bulbs) ticker or even large displays are produced, which can show moving colored pictures. Compared to fluorescent tubes, the new LED technology is more durable and requires less maintenance. For example, a 14-meter-long and three-meter high system with fluorescent tubes with a lighting duration of four hours per day would cost around 5600 euros in electricity over ten years . With LEDs, the power consumption in the same period is around 700 euros. In addition, the LEDs often have a service life of 40,000 to 100,000 operating hours. In the example above, this is up to 25 years. In contrast, fluorescent tube systems require maintenance at least every five years, during which the replacement lamps have to be specially made.

For very large neon signs, the room lighting in high-rise office buildings is sometimes switched on at night in a certain pattern (see SKF-Hochhaus Schweinfurt ).

Mounting type

Neon signs are attached in, on or on buildings, and occasionally separate advertising towers are also erected. Non-luminous signs that are illuminated by headlights are also used for these . Neon signs should be placed outside of buildings at a height of over 3 meters to protect against graffiti sprayers, but this usually happens anyway for the purpose of better visibility.

Neon signs can also be installed on board airships . They then often offer a very impressive appearance.

Operating modes

Neon signs can be operated with both constant and changing lighting, with real light games being possible. The former are more likely to be used by companies, while the latter play a role above all in companies that have their main turnover time during the night, such as amusement arcades , night clubs and discos . Very elaborate plays of light may require a permit, as they can distract drivers from the traffic.

Exceptional neon signs

SKF high-rise in Schweinfurt (2012)
Bosch neon sign on A 8 (2007)
The spoon family on Karl-Liebknecht-Strasse in Leipzig (2007)
Ku'damm-Eck in Berlin,
with video wall (2009)
Iduna high-rise in Schweinfurt,
with video wall / media facade (2017)

Bayer Cross Leverkusen

A well-known, unusual neon sign is, for example, the Bayer Cross in Leverkusen , which appears to hang in the air at night due to its mounting method on two steel posts 118 meters high. With a logo diameter of 51 meters, the cross is the largest neon sign in the world.

SKF high-rise in Schweinfurt

The most unusual and most neon signs to the world the 1961-1963 realized by blinds belongs Logo of SKF on high-rise of the German head office on Main in Schweinfurt . With a height of six storeys and a width of 78 meters, the three letters are still visible from the Steigerwald at a distance of 20 kilometers, or can be read with binoculars or telephoto lenses.

At the end of work, office workers pulled down blue blinds on the relevant windows, which were illuminated by fluorescent tubes on the lintels. The blue letters were visible through the skyscraper at night in mirror writing on the other side of the city. During the comprehensive renovation of the main administration in 2014, illuminated advertising was switched to LED . This neon sign was inspired by the lettering “UN” on the high-rise window of the UN headquarters in New York City , which was switched off in the late 1960s. The idea has often been picked up in newer music videos through animated displays on various high-rise buildings, for example in 2001 in Kylie Minogue's hit Can't Get You Out of My Head .

Bosch Bridge Stuttgart

A large neon sign belongs to Robert Bosch GmbH and is located on both sides of the parking garage of the New Stuttgart Trade Fair Center stretched over the A8 . The letters in the Bosch logo are 8 meters high, and the associated ignition anchor logo is 12 meters in diameter.

Restaurant in Leingarten

In Leingarten near Heilbronn , a restaurant used a neon sign made of light-emitting diodes that was attached to the blades of a fan . The light-emitting diodes were controlled in such a way that as soon as the fan turned, they gave the name of the restaurant. Since you couldn't see the fan, especially in the dark, the lettering seemed to float in the air. Devices working according to this principle can be found u. a. also as a clock . The required row of LEDs can also move on a cylindrical path.

Spoon family Leipzig

Since many neon signs have now been dismantled, the requirements of monument protection become more important when they are shut down . A special example is the so-called " spoon family " built in Leipzig in 1973 . It was declared a cultural monument in 1993 by the Free State of Saxony and has been maintained and operated by a citizens' initiative since 1996 (initially "IG Löffelfamilie", now "Löffelfamilie eV"). It has now been renovated and is listed in the list of monuments of the State Office for the Preservation of Monuments in Saxony .

LED video walls in Berlin and Schweinfurt

The two largest LED video walls in Germany are located in Berlin , among others at Ku'damm-Eck with a height of over two floors. The third largest video wall has been in Schweinfurt at the Iduna high-rise since 2009, with a height of over three floors; it is a media façade over which not only advertising but also news and the weather forecast run.


At a discotheque in Böblingen towards the end of the 1980s, a neon sign was used, the letters of which were made of fluorescent material and which were made to glow with the help of an ultraviolet lamp. Such neon signs can be produced very easily, but they are not widely used because the luminance is quite low and can only be seen in the dark.

Airships or blimps can also have neon signs. It is also possible to illuminate the airship from the inside.

Moving images can be projected onto houses or sidewalks .

The Skybeamer is a less innovative form of neon advertising , as practically no information can be transmitted. Skybeamers are used to localize discos or major events, but they cause a high level of light pollution .

Comparable systems

  • Traffic signs can be illuminated or illuminated from the inside at night.
  • The lighting of high buildings is also done with fluorescent tubes .
  • Light fields (interiors, pedestrian zones ) can consist of opaque panes behind which there are gas discharge lamps . Such surfaces can also be dimmable or work with changing colors. Special controls sometimes regulate brightness and light color depending on the time of day and daylight.
  • Architectural design often also includes technical solutions similar to neon advertising, for example neon tubes to emphasize contours or underfloor spotlights to illuminate buildings or street trees.


Manufacturers and operators of neon advertising are charged with contributing to light pollution . Insects die in large numbers from getting too close to light sources; Like plants and other animals, they are exposed to light stress in the area of ​​action of artificial light, which deprives them of the natural darkness of the night.

Limitation of light emission

In Germany, the light from neon advertising is generally considered to be an emission in the sense of environmental law and, in particular, falls within the scope of the Federal Immission Control Act . There are similar regulations in other countries.

To curb light pollution, the Star Park Rhön recommends operators of neon signs and the authorities approving them :

“Illuminated advertising systems with a far-reaching visual effect should always be related to the use of the respective property area / the respective company. Purely decorative lighting without advertising should be avoided, they are to be viewed as spotlights. In particular, the requirements of the light immission guidelines must be followed.

  • Systems with rapidly changing and / or moving light must be avoided at all costs.
  • Self-luminous boards for pure advertising purposes should not exceed a maximum luminance of 50 cd / m².
  • Luminous signs of general public interest (e.g. clinics) should by no means exceed luminance levels of more than 100 cd / m².
  • The backgrounds (largest parts of the area) should be kept in dark or warm tones. Light text on a dark background is optimal.
  • Advertising systems (free-standing or on buildings) should not exceed the eaves height of the building with their upper edge .
  • The systems should be switched off no later than 1 hour after closing time until 1 hour before opening. "

See also

Individual evidence

  1. Main-Post: SKF gives Schweinfurt a landmark , July 27, 2012
  2. Main-Post: How the building got its neon sign, August 26, 2009
  3. Main-Post: Refurbishment: Ten million for the SKF high-rise , January 17, 2014
  4. Stuttgarter Zeitung : Bosch wants to be in the Guinness Book of Records , September 24, 2007
  5. Leipzig spoon family. In: YouTube video portal . Retrieved April 2, 2018 .
  6. www.Lö
  7. Association and support party
  8. Video today - in Germany: Leipzig - Löffelfamilie turns 40 (September 9, 2013, 2 p.m., 1:40 min.)  In the ZDFmediathek , accessed on February 3, 2014.
  9. Main-Post: Commercial on the skyscraper , December 21, 2009
  10. ↑ Star Park Rhön is committed to combating light pollution ., August 24, 2018
  11. Rhön Biosphere Reserve: Recommended action for outdoor lighting: Workplace lighting, parking spaces and advertising systems . P. 2

Web links

Commons : Neon Sign  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Neon sign  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations