The making of a Coca-Cola neon sign, 1954

One of the highlights of the Design Museum’s show on the125 years of Coca-Cola is a book documenting the design and build of their first neon sign for Piccadilly Circus, in 1954

In the new issue of CR, I talk to Coca-Cola archivist, Ted Ryan, about the history of the brand’s 125 year-old identity, explored in a new show at the Design Museum. One of the highlights of the display is a book documenting the design and build of their first neon sign for Piccadilly Circus, in 1954…

When he returned to Atlanta, Ryan kindly sourced some scans of some of the pages from this rare publication, a few of which we used in the print piece in the July issue. The rest we present here as a series, alongside two Technical Data pages, should anyone be interested in how the sign was actually constructed.

The opening page of the book reads as follows: “Outdoor Publicity Limited are pleased to present this volume to The Coca-Cola Export Corporation to record the lighting of the Piccadilly Sign in London on July 1st, 1954”. Then the design credits are: “Designed by the Advertising Department of The Coca-Cola Company, in Atlanta, U.S.A., and constructed by Claude-General Neon Lights Ltd in their factory at Wembley, Middlesex”.

Ryan looks after the physical Coca-Cola archives at the Atlanta HQ, which can be toured (virtually) via The July issue of CR features a range of work from the archives, including some examples of early tie-ins with baseball stars from 1907; one of the first print advertisements to feature an African-American woman from 1955; and several pages of the Coca-Cola design manuals used in the 1960s.

The July issue will be up online very soon (for subscriber access) but you can also take advantage of a 40% subscription here, for this weekend only, as part of our deal celebrating reaching 400k followers on Twitter.

One of the first images in the book replicates the drawn plan for the neon sign:

The manufacture of the sign is also recorded – here, spray-painting the letters:

The sign begins to take shape on Piccadilly Circus:

The final image in the book, the only one in colour, shows the sign lit-up:

Finally, here are two scans from the Technical Data pages:

Thanks again to Ted Ryan for sending the images our way. You can see the Design Museum‘s Coca-Cola exhibition, in the tank display on Shad Thames, London SE1 2YD, until July 3.


CR in Print

Thanks for reading the CR Blog but, if you’re not also getting the printed magazine, we think you are missing out. This month’s bumper July issue contains 60 pages of great images in our Illustration Annual plus features on Chris Milk, Friends With You and the Coca-Cola archive.

If you would like to buy this issue and are based in the UK, you can search for your nearest stockist here. Based outside the UK? Simply call +44(0)207 292 3703 to find your nearest stockist. Better yet, subscribe to CR for a year here and save yourself almost 30% on the printed magazine and get Monograph.

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