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A LOOK INTO

LAS VEGAS’ GOOGIE STYLE NEON TYPOGRAPHY

JENNIFER DEANGELIS GUNN


A LOOK INTO

LAS VEGAS’ GOOGIE STYLE NEON TYPOGRAPHY

JENNIFER DEANGELIS GUNN

GRAPHIC DESIGN STUDIO: TYPOGRAPHIC PRACTICE-GRDS-734-OL


A LOOK INTO LAS VEGAS’ GOOGIE STYLE, NEON TYPE | NEON

CONTENTS INTRODUCTION

1

GOOGIE

4

THE FUTURE

8

COINED TERM

12

BETTY

16

WHAT IS YOUR TYPE?

18

EXCEPTIONS TO EVERY RULE

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MODERN GOOGIE TYPE

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ALL GOOD THINGS...

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NEON MUSEUM Moulin Rouge | 1955

GRAPHIC DESIGN STUDIO: TYPOGRAPHIC PRACTICE-GRDS-734-OL

(Sidebar)

28...


INTRODUCTION

Even before you land in Las Vegas, you can see the screaming lights. It’s an experience I will never forget! Your 4.5 hour flight (if you’re coming from New Jersey like I am) is over and you’ve arrived in a place with gambling, shopping, pool side drinks, legal hookers... OH RIGHT, and neon signs!

Hey Ladies! I invented the neon sign!

Have you met our friend Betty on Page 16?

Las Vegas is a city that was built in the Nevada desert for 1 purposes; entertainment! It’s a graphic designer’s dream of visual overload, a city where,more is more and bigger is always better. There is a non stop flashing on and off of lights, beckoning you to join in the fun! The flashing lights have evolved over the years with technology, and today many of the neon lights of Vegas have been replaced by Digital signs. Digital signs are cheaper, brighter, and quicker to fix, but they don’t compare to the sparkle and artistry of a neon sign. Neon signs started to appear in Las Vegas in the early 1920s, but this was not the first time a neon sign was seen. HERE’S A BRIEF HISTORY OF NEON... Georges Claude was a French chemist, inventor and the first person to apply

an electrical discharge to a sealed tube of neon gas to create a lamp. Simple right?! Georges Claude displayed the first neon lamp to the public on December 11, 1910 in Paris. Claude would have topped the Forbes list; the value of the neon sign business was $16.9 million, of which a significant percentage was paid to Claude Neon Lights, Inc. Amazingly enough, Claude’s concept and system to create neon signs is the same system used today! 1929, according to The Las Vegas Sun, was the year the first neon sign showed up in Las Vegas at the Oasis Café, located at 123 Fremont Street. "Without neon and flashing lights, you might as well be anywhere," says Bob Glave (neon sign designer Sierra Signs).

THE WORD NEON COMES FROM THE GREEK “NEOS,” MEANING “THE NEW GAS.”

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INTRODUCTION

The EXPLOSIONS of neon signs didn’t hit until the late 1940s. YESCO (Young Electric Sign Company) set up a branch office in Nevada during, what they call, the ‘golden age of neon’. Not only were the neon signs everywhere, they were now different shapes, unique typography, flashing in multiple colors and sizes. In 1948 alone, YESCO built and installed neon signs for the Pioneer Club, Golden Nugget,

THE SPECIFIC NAME FOR THIS STYLE OF DESIGN IS CALLED....

Las Vegas Club and the Eldorada Club. There were many, many, many, many, many, many, many different styles of signs. Some were GIGANTIC images of cowboys and ducks, but my favorite were the typographic based neon signs. I adore a neon sign that has large, retro, futuristic type and angular shapes.

CHECK OUT YESCO’S WEBSITE FOR AN INTERACTIVE HISTORY TIMELINE: WWW.YESCO.COM

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maybe one of the most entertaining words to say...

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GOOGIE

Amoeba shape | Sky Ranch Motel, Las Vegas, NV (Restored)

Arrow shapes | Holiday Motel, Las Vegas, NV

Boomerang shape | Neon sign on East Fremont, Downtown Las Vegas

Upswept roof | local cleaners Las Vegas, NV

Produced by Hanna-Barbera, this sitcom ran from 1962-63

GOOGIE Googie, maybe one of the most entertaining words to say, was a style of design, predominantly architecture design, during the late 1940s until the mid-1960s. In the late 1940s, John Lautner was creating designs for a number of coffeehouses in California. He unknowingly created a new genre with a funny name that would be duplicated as well as disparaged for decades to come. 1

The epitome of Googie POP culture can be seen from watching an episode of The Jetsons. From a design perspective, the common characteristics for Googie style symbols are free form amoeba designs, boomerang and arrow shapes, large sheet glass windows and upswept roofs. This style of design also made its way into the aesthetic of advertising, signs and most importantly, typography!

1. Spaceprints.mp4. “Googie Architecture in Las Vegas, Part 1.” Youtube. N.p., 3 Jan. 2010. Web. 20 Oct. 2012. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TdyLfdHbr7E>.

AT THE TIME OF ITS DEBUT, THE JETSONS WAS THE FIRST PROGRAM EVER TO BE BROADCAST IN COLOR ON ABC-TV

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THE FUTURE

Check it out! It’s Skype and a Mac computer.

THE “FUTURE” Googie design was futuristic, or what people from the 1950’s considered the future to be. The style is also sometimes referred to as Populuxe, Doowop, Coffee Shop Modern, Mid-Century Modern, RayGun Gothic, Jet Age and Space Age. The illustration to the left was by Fred McNabb, in 1956. This American illustrator was actually not that far off in his depiction! Here we see Skype, a flat screen TV and a post modern style oven.

House of the Future | Fred McNabb, 1956

SEE MORE OF THESE AMAZING ILLUSTRATIONS AT WWW.PLAN59.COM

SEE MORE OF THESE AMAZING ILLUSTRATIONS AT WWW.PLAN59.COM

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THE FUTURE

Sofa, 1958 | Edward Wormley for Dunbar

Spaceport of the Future c. 1957 | James R. Powers

SEE MORE OF THESE AMAZING ILLUSTRATIONS AT WWW.PLAN59.COM

SEE MORE OF THESE AMAZING ILLUSTRATIONS AT WWW.PLAN59.COM

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COINED TERM

COINED TERM Googie became a well known term once Douglas Haskell, a critic and editor for House and Home Magazine, coined the term “Googie architecture” after seeing the Los Angeles coffeehouse and writing about it in 1952. Fabulous Las Vegas was the mecca of this aesthetic. Architects can go on and on about the angled roofs and retro/futuristic motels, casinos and restaurants, but it also became a huge influence for graphic artists.

El Rancho Hotel Casino | Fred McNabb, 1954

Sands | Las Vegas, 1952

Flamingo | Las Vegas, 1948

Stardust Casino | 1955

Desert Inn | Las Vegas, 1950

The Thunderbird | Las Vegas, 1946

Pink Motel

Fergusons Motel & Casino | Las Vegas

El Rancho Vegas | Fred McNabb, 1941

Douglas Honnald, Stephen Kanner, Martin Stern Jr., and partners Louis Armet and Eldone Davis were influenced by the style, and it became the new design style for motels, hotels, diners and bowling alleys. They found an aesthetic answer to the question, “How can I get attention to my roadside business?”. | Cherokee, NC

“GOOGIE, WITH ITS EXTREMES, METAPHORICAL QUALITIES AND HUMOR HAS ALWAYS BEEN HARD TO CATEGORIZE,” ACCORDING TO CHRIS JEPSEN, CREATOR OF THE WEBSITE GOOGIE ARCHITECTURE ONLINE.

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THE WELCOME TO FABULOUS LAS VEGAS SIGN IS A 25-FOOT-TALL, CLASSIC ROADSIDE POLE DESIGN

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BETTY

I HEART GEORGES CLAUDE!

WHAT YOU TALKIN’ ABOUT WILLIS? Betty Willis is a female neon sign designer, most known for her work in the 1950s. She was designing in a time when women were not notable in our field. She was born in 1924 and raised in Las Vegas. Her talent was evident from her start. She enrolled in design school in Los Angeles and returned back to Las Vegas when she completed her work.

BETTY One of the most famous Googie, sign in Las Vegas was designed by the talented, sweet and now 80+ year old, Betty Willis. Betty’s sign stood 25-foot-high and screamed, “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” It was created in the 1950s with the concept that everything else in Vegas had a sign, but Vegas!

Betty found work designing ads for casinos and then transitioned into designing neon signs at Western Neon. Betty’s recognizable work includes her Moulin Rouge sign and the iconic Blue Angel sign at the Blue Angel Motel, but by far her most famous design is the “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign that still stands at the south end of the Las Vegas Strip. Willis designed the sign at the suggestion of local salesman and city booster Ted Rogich. When the sign was complete in 1959, Rogich and Willis sold it to Clark County for just $4000.

WILLIS SOLD THE “WELCOME TO FABULOUS LAS VEGAS SIGN” TO CLARK COUNTY FOR JUST $4000.

WELCOME TO FABULOUS LAS VEGAS SIGN THE SIGN IS A 25-FOOT-TALL | CLASSIC ROADSIDE POLE DESIGN

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WHAT IS YOUR TYPE?

WHAT IS YOUR TYPE?

Typography was an integral part of any Googie style sign. It wasn’t uncommon for an architect to have a designer on staff for the sole purpose of designing type. REMEMBER, this was the 1950s: there wasn’t a computer to type out your characters yet or download from myfonts.com!

Like many artists Mrs. Willis is a perfectionist. She remains dissatisfied, for example, with the hand-drawn lettering of the word “fabulous,” which she considers amateurish. “I sweat blood when I take a good hard look at it,” she said.

YOU’RE JUST MY TYPE!

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GOOGIE SYMBOL

WHAT IS YOUR TYPE?

GOOGIE SYMBOL RETRO CURSIVE

RETRO CURSIVE

SANS SERIF TYPE

SPACE LIKE TYPE

RETRO CURSIVE

The Stardust Hotel | Las Vegas, 1958

GOOGIE SCRIPTS

The Thunderbird Hotel | Las Vegas, 1950

Googie style architectural design drawing of Sands Hotel, Las Vegas,

Googie style architectural design drawing of Sands Hotel, Las Vegas,

UNLV Libraries Digital Collections

By UNLV Libraries Digital Collections

Retro

other styles.

There are 3 basic typographic styles inside of the Googie neon.

There was usually a combination of the with one of the The Googie style symbol was always apparent in the overall design.

• THE RETRO SCRIPT • SANS SERIF • SPACE INSPIRED TYPE • GOOGIE STYLE SYMBOL (SPACE LINE/SCIENTIFIC)

Often with a quick brush like stroke, hints of formal calligraphy and italics to represent movement, possibly related to space or shooting starts, this type was an integral part of the overall design. Architecture and graphic design had a happy marriage in the Googie era.

FOR DECADES, MANY “SERIOUS” ARCHITECTS DECRIED GOOGIE AS FRIVOLOUS OR CRASS. BUT TODAY WE RECOGNIZE HOW PERFECTLY ITS FORM FOLLOWED ITS FUNCTION.

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EXCEPTIONS TO EVERY RULE. Q. WHAT THE HECK? I thought there wasnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t any serif style fonts when it came to Googie? THIS IS A FREE GOOGIE STYLE FONT!

A.

Ok, there are exceptions to every rule. Most Googie style, neon signs were sans serif, it made adding the neon tubes easier, but as seen here with this modern style font it certainly can be described as Googie still. Another fun characteristic of Googie type was the playful baseline for letters. The letters looked like they were bouncing up and down, side to side and sparkling! A great example of this playful baseline can be seen on this Texas neon sign for Sigels Liquor. I love that the photographer was able to shoot booth in the day and at night. It almost feels like 2 totally different signs!

HTTP://WWW.DAFONT.COM/FONT-DINER.D9

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TIME PERIOD HISTORY

Cocktail Shaker is available for sale on myfonts.com

fab’u’lous

MODERN GOOGIE TYPE Signs were usually hand-designed without our current modern conveniences that allowed up to type characters in seconds. Current designers have learned to mimic the retro style letters from Las Vegas, however many will argue it’s not quite the same feel. Look closely at the 2 ‘u’ characters in the word ‘fabulous’ from the iconic, Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas Sign. The first ‘u’ is smoother, slightly heavier weight and is significantly shorter. These differences in the characters gives a unique quality to the pieces. The imperfections are what makes it more valuable, while the perfected digital fonts may be easier to use, they make work easier to replicate.

fabulo’u’s

Designers: Stuart Sandler Design date: 2004 Publisher: Sideshow MyFonts debut: Apr 17, 2008

I’ve layered the 2 circles here to better expose the difference in the characters.

HTTP://WWW.DAFONT.COM/FONT-DINER.D9

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All good things must come to an END. The neon sign, Googie era started to disintegrate once space flight became a reality. This FAnTASTY WORLD we were living in had become actuality and the intrigue that was once there v anished. As architecture and design orbited into a NEW direction, many of the signs were destroyed once businesses closed or digital technology replaced it. YESCO (Young Electric Sign Company) was starting to deposit their signs in central Las Vegas. Not until 25 years ago did they start allowing people to view these signs. Those neon signs rest peacefully at the odd, but interesting, NEON MUSEUM LAS VEGAS.

YOU CAN VISIT THE NEON MUSEUM 24 HOURS A DAY, 7 DAYS A WEEK! THE NEON SIGN MUSEUM, FOUNDED IN 1996, IS HOME TO OVER 150 DONATED AND RESCUED SIGNS DATING FROM THE 1930s.

CHECK OUT YESCOâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;S WEBSITE FOR AN INTERACTIVE HISTORY TIME LINE: WWW.YESCO.COM

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STARDUST THIS WAS A 300 YARD SIGN THAT WAS THE FACADE TO HIDE A LESS ATTRACTIVE LANDSCAPE BEHIND IT.

CHECK OUT YESCO’S WEBSITE FOR AN INTERACTIVE HISTORY TIME LINE: WWW.YESCO.COM

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GOLDEN NUGGET GAMBLING HALL THIS NEON SIGN BECAME A PART OF THE ARCHITECTURE OF THE BUILDING. THIS SIGN WAS A LARGE SIGN OF LIGHTS AND COLOR THAT BECAME THE MORE RECOGNIZABLE PART OF THE ENTIRE CASINO.

CHECK OUT THE NEON MUSEUM’S WEBSITE FOR AN INTERACTIVE HISTORY TIME LINE: WWW.NEONMUSEUM.ORG

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CHECK OUT THE NEON MUSEUM’S WEBSITE FOR AN INTERACTIVE HISTORY TIME LINE: WWW.NEONMUSEUM.ORG

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G,L,A,M IS SPELLED HERE, BUT IT’S ACTUALLY THE LOWER PART OF THE GOLDEN NUGGET SIGN, THAT SPELLED OUT ‘GAMBLING’.

CHECK OUT THE NEON MUSEUM’S WEBSITE FOR AN INTERACTIVE HISTORY TIME LINE: WWW.NEONMUSEUM.ORG

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CHECK OUT THE NEON MUSEUM’S WEBSITE FOR AN INTERACTIVE HISTORY TIME LINE: WWW.NEONMUSEUM.ORG

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WORKS CITED • “A Conversation with Alan Hess - Classic Las Vegas History Blog - Blog.”

A Conversation with Alan Hess. N.p., Apr. 2006. Web. 27 Oct. 2012.

<http://classiclasvegas.squarespace.com/classic-las-vegas-blog/2010/2/10/a-conversation-with-alan-hess.html>. • Fredeen, Charles. “The History of the Las Vegas Golden Nugget Casino.”

Travel Tips. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Oct. 2012.

<http://traveltips.usatoday.com/history-las-vegas-golden-nugget-casino-54606.html>. • “Googie: Custom Fonts Accompanied Funny-Sounding Architecture | Fonts Cafe.”

Googie: Custom Fonts Accompanied Funny-Sounding Architecture | Fonts Cafe. N.p., 19 June 2012. Web. 27 Oct. 2012.

<http://fontscafe.com/cafearea/googie-custom-fonts-accompanied-funny-sounding-architecture>. • “Las Vegas an Unconventional History.” PBS. PBS, 11 July 2005. Web. 23 Oct. 2012. <http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/lasvegas/peopleevents/p_willis.html>. • Oesterle, Joe, Tim Cridland, Mark Moran, and Mark Sceurman. Weird Las Vegas and Nevada:

Your Alternative Travel Guide to Sin City and the Silver State. New York , NY: Sterling Pub., 2007. Print.

• Spaceprints.mp4. “Googie Architecture in Las Vegas, Part 1.” Youtube. N.p., 3 Jan. 2010. Web. 20 Oct. 2012. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TdyLfdHbr7E>. • Swan, Sheila, and Peter Laufer. Neon Nevada. Reno: University of Nevada, 1994. Print.

“YESCO - Custom Electric Signs.” YESCO - Custom Electric Signs. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Oct. 2012.

<http://www.yesco.com/>.

GRAPHIC DESIGN STUDIO: TYPOGRAPHIC PRACTICE-GRDS-734-OL

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Neon