Iconic Signs in America: The Effect a Great Sign can have on Society

A sign isn’t just a giant chunk of metal, plastic and other materials – well, metaphorically speaking. While it might literally be a giant chunk of the material it’s made from, a sign has the potential to be much more than that. They’re symbols placed in our society that are designed for easy recognition and memorability. Signs date back centuries, but the more modern versions like we’re familiar with are a much more recent evolution. During the last century they’ve become pieces of Americana that are only becoming more collectible as time goes on. This isn’t lost on sign makers of today, who are working to create signs that will resonate with people in the same caliber as some from the past. Designers, fabricators and everyone else who has a hand in sign making understand the effect a great sign can have on society. There are many signs out there today that still hang in their original location. They’re pieces of art that have made too big of an impression on society that they will likely never be taken down.

The team at Harbinger Sign wants to take this space to explore a few of those iconic signs in America we’re all likely to recognize.


Hollywood Sign

There’s no other sign we could start this list with than the Hollywood Sign. Without a doubt the Hollywood Sign is the most recognizable piece of signage in America. It’s a pop culture staple that’s flashed across screens all around the world. From movies to TV shows and beyond – if it has anything to do with Los Angeles it’s likely the Hollywood Sign will make an appearance. Located within the second largest metro area in the United States, the Hollywood Sign is seen by millions and millions of eyes every year. It was originally created in the early 1920s to advertise a new real estate development. It quickly became a recognizable part of the landscape, so it was left in place. In its original state it read “HOLLYWOODLAND,” but the ending was soon dropped to leave just “HOLLYWOOD” – a nod to the city. For dreamers all across the country and even around the world, the Hollywood Sign is a symbol of independence and the promise that you can turn your dream of becoming a star into a reality.


Welcome to Las Vegas

Keeping our thoughts on the West Coast, the Welcome to Las Vegas sign is no doubt one of the most recognizable signs in the country. If you’ve vacationed in Las Vegas, dreamed of vacationing in Las Vegas or maybe even spent a little too much time there, this sign likely holds a special place in your heart. Located on Las Vegas Boulevard near the very beginning of “The Strip,” it’s the first thing many people see when they arrive in the city. Its bright lights, beautiful colors and bold lettering tell all who pass by exactly where they are. If you want to know how culturally significant the sign has on Las Vegas just look at any gift shop. Images, miniature replicas and anything else related to the Welcome to Las Vegas sign are going to be a main driver of the city’s tourism industry for years to come.


The Chicago Theatre

Chicago, the most populous Midwest city, is home to a sign that’s iconic in its own right. The Chicago Theatre sign, while popular among tourists and music lovers, is easily recognizable to people who have never even stepped foot in the city. Affixed to the front of the theatre, its bright and bold letters are unmistakable. What many don’t know is that this sign isn’t the theatre’s original. It replaced the original in 1949, which was likely a wise choice. People might not know everything about the Chicago Theatre, but people in every corner of America know it exists simply because of its sign.


Essex House

While not as well-known as the Hollywood Sign, the Essex House is the perfect example of how having a great sign can be a tremendous boost to business. The Essex House is a luxury hotel in Manhattan’s Central Park South neighborhood now occupied by Marriott Hotels. Due to its location directly adjacent to Central Park, the six-story Essex House sign that sits atop the building is noticeable from well across the other side of park. For decades visitors to the city have stood in awe of the beauty and simplicity of the sign, dreaming of the day they get to stay in the hotel. Its visibility in a city nicknamed the concrete jungle has aided it in becoming an iconic sign in New York and around the world.


Radio City Music Hall

Ending this journey in New York City, the Radio City Music Hall sign is arguably the most iconic sign in all of the city. Located in the heart of Midtown Manhattan, Radio City Music Hall has hosted visitors from near and far for nearly a century. Nicknamed the Showplace of the Nation, Radio City Music Hall is home to the world famous Rockettes. When you combine well-known talent with a desirably located venue and exquisite signage, its likely you have the makings of something great. That’s exactly what happened to land the Radio City Music Hall sign on our list of the most iconic signs in America.


Sometimes a great sign is only one piece of the puzzle. A sign doesn’t always become iconic on its own – it usually takes a well-known and widely respected brand image to establish a sign as iconic in American society. At Harbinger Sign, we work every day with our clients to create signs that will hopefully one day lead them to be featured in someone else’s list of iconic signs in America.

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