Neon Design Services
When you create a neon sign, you’re creating a piece of custom artwork. Neon is a rarified art, and a neon sign is an investment in beauty that can live for several decades.
I serve as a design bridge between your idea and the neon shop.
I’m a designer and letterer who loves neon and understands the medium’s strengths and limitations. What I do is work with you to create a neon-specific design that is unique and beautiful (examples).
I am not a neon bender or a sign manufacturer.
If you DO NOT need design help — for example, you have an existing logo you’d like to turn into a neon sign — here’s a list of independent Portland Oregon neon sign shops that can help you directly:
Live elsewhere? See my global map of Authentic Neon Shops.
If you do need logo design services as well, I have packages for logo + neon design — start with my Logo Design Questionnaire.
If you need a full branding suite, go here.
NEON DESIGN FAQs
What exactly is going on here? What do you do?
I serve as a design bridge between your idea and the neon shop. I’m a letterer with a deep love for neon and lots of experience designing neon signs. I partner with you to create a piece of unique artwork with an understanding of neon’s strengths and limitations. I am not a neon bender or a sign manufacturer — I partner with brilliant tube benders to make amazing neon art works!
Why should I work with you instead of just going directly to the neon shop and have them design something?
Neon shops don’t often have in-house designers. I’ve got an art degree, have been studying typography for 20+ years, and drawing neon lettering for more than a decade. With all due respect to the tube benders who are the neon gods who walk among us, their time is spent in the fires. When you hire the neon shop without artwork ready, benders will most likely use a font to create your text-based art, which can result in a generic, boring, cookie-cutter sign design in the end. I work with you to activate your vision and create something unique, beautiful, memorable, futuristic or historical, and I collaborate with the bender to make it come to life!
I already have an existing logo design. How do I make a neon sign with it?
Great! You can take your logo directly to any qualified neon shop, where they will skillfully adapt the design for neon signage. See this list of Portland Oregon area neon shops to work with. For the rest of the world, see my Authentic Neon Shops map!
I don’t have a logo. Can you design one for me?
Yes! Fill out this Logo Design Questionnaire to get started.
How about if I want a logo AND a neon sign designed?
I do have a service package for logo + neon design, and can also design a whole branding suite for you if you need it! Let me know by using the Logo Design Questionnaire.
I have a neon sign idea but no design, just words. Can you help?
Yes! I love to work with text to create custom-lettered neon pieces. My experience with lettering, design, illustration, color, and historical styles all converge to inform my neon design process. The goal is to create a piece of art that is lively and unique. Fill out my Neon Design Questionnaire to get started.
What is lettering?
Lettering is custom-drawn, text-based art. The alternative is to create the artwork using type (aka fonts). While fonts are useful as hell for many a design piece, for the medium of neon, relying solely on fonts can deliver a piece that looks generic and boring. (However, type can certainly be used as a starting point, to be customized or adapted for neon, and I’m happy to work that way if needed). Custom lettering ensures a unique, dynamic solution for your neon sign.
For more on why you should hire a good letterer, read my treatise on the subject here.
What do you mean when you say that neon has limitations?
Neon is a unique and gorgeous art form that combines the science of gas, glass, electricity, and light. As with any physical art form, neon’s limitations actually strengthen it’s uniqueness and viability. The glass tubes that make up a neon sign are segmented into uniform lengths. The diameter of the tube is also uniform, necessitating monolinear design for all the neon components of a given piece*. Tube diameters are predetermined by tube manufacturers, and chosen by the bender based on the size and design of any given piece. There is also a limited selection of colors available for neon tubing.
* This assertion assumes a neon sign design using naked neon tubing, meaning that the tubes are visible. There are other ways to use neon architecturally, to create a halo effect, as well as other indirect lighting situations where the tubes are blocked and hidden.
What types of neon signs can you design?
- interior neon art piece
- interior signage/ wayfinding
- window sign facing the street
- cabinet mounted neon sign
- fascia sign — exterior signage on a building’s facade
- blade sign
- swing sign
- rooftop neon sign
- freestanding exterior monument or pole sign
NEON LETTER STYLES (all are with naked neon tubing as opposed to silhouetted)
- single stroke
- double stroke, triple stroke, or more..
- vintage/ historical styles
- script lettering
- block lettering
- all capital letters
- channel lettering
- raceway lettering
Are there special permits I need to obtain to have a neon sign displayed on my building?
Yes. Most American cities and towns, including Portland, require permits to install exterior illuminated signs. The neon shop handles this permitting process, but if you’re planning a big outdoor sign let me know up front and I can provide further details.
What about LEDs?
Nope. I don’t work with LED manufacturers (although I do get spam from them frequently!) LEDs are ugly, unreliable, bad for people, bad for the environment, they have a very short life, and they’re killing the neon business. I think LED is fine to use for bulbs, but it’s a tragic mistake to use LED as a substitute for real neon tubing.
The shops I work with fabricate authentic neon signs (gas and glass baby!). On a visceral level, a neon sign has allure. Like a naked bolt of lightning frozen in time, the glow it gives off is nothing short of magical. The quality of neon light is unmatched in its beauty and its ability to stir the soul. Neons signs are made essentially the same way today as they were 100 years ago: by hand. When you order a neon sign to be made you are supporting local, highly skilled artists who are practising an endangered craft. What’s not to like?
Read more about why real neon is better here.
What if I want to hire you for neon design and take the design to an LED manufacturer for production?
Please don’t do that! I would feel like a real asshole if I participated in that. Neon benders are craftspeople practising an endangered art. LED manufacturers are corporate giants trying to make a quick buck. By the way you will not get the original art files (neon tube schematics) — these go directly to the neon shop — unless you pay me an extra kajillion dollars.
COSTS & SERVICES
How do I get an estimate?
Fill out my Neon Design Questionnaire. I typically get an estimate back to you within 48 hours.
How much are your neon design services?
It depends! Cost factors include the number of words and letters; number of colors; number of strokes per letter; illustrations if any; total area size of the piece; neon sign mounting; letter style; how much project management is needed; what optional services you want to include (see below); and how many times you change your mind :) Estimates are free — get one by filling out the questionnaire.
What optional services do you offer?
Currently I offer the optional services listed below, but if you think something is missing from the process let me know:
• Shop Scouting: Wherever you're located, it makes sense to work with a neon shop that's nearby. I can tap into my neon network to find a good shop that is geographically convenient for you.
• Photo-real Sign Mockups: Using one or two photos of the space, I create a photoreal mockup of what the sign will roughly look like in place and illuminated.
• Neon Shop Visit: Design and production consultation at the neon shop with you (the client) present. Usually involves choosing tube colors, deciding on mounting options, positioning on the wall, installation, production schedules, etc.
How much does it cost to have a neon sign made?
Again, it really depends! I generally refrain from offering a neon production estimate, since I am not the one producing (the neon shop will be the producers). Their pricing is dependent on the design based on size, complexity, number of colors, what type of mounting, and if any electrical work needs to be done. Most shops will not provide an estimate without a design file to work with. Together with my clients, we typically get an estimate from the neon shop about halfway through the design process, assuming the remaining changes made to the artwork will only be minor ones.
What does the neon design process look like from start to finish?
Based on your questionnaire answers, design options are presented, evaluated, and revised in collaboration with you, the client. Neon can last several decades, and what I’m aiming for is to work with you to arrive at a design that is uniquely beautiful and has longevity, and help you determine what is right for your situation and your space or building. Allow 4-6 weeks for design. The amount of liaising along the course of the project will vary based on your needs and budget. Our collaboration concludes with a useable art file sent to the neon shop.
As a new client what is required to start the project?
Signed agreement and ~50% down payment is required to begin.
Can I pay you for the neon shop’s services?
No. Billing for design is separate from the neon shop’s billing.