Discussing the popularity of neon colors, Priyanka Rout takes us through its history and origin.

Neon has always been around but its growing popularity in everything we look around makes one wonder where or how it came into being. Neon is a distant color considering how it always catches our eyes. From including them in our home decor to watching our favorite celebrities wear them on red carpets, neon holds a place in every aspect of human life. And Priyanka Rout, storyteller at ThisDay by Ekank Technologies helps us trace back the journey of it becoming part of our lives.

Someone who describes herself as not being “gifted nor mentally bright”, Priyanka believes herself to be a curious soul. Scrolling through history and looking for facts that date back to the old days is what makes her happy, and her article on neon colors describes that perfectly. If you want to know more about how neon became part of our lives, keep reading!

Be it Priyanka Chopra’s fluorescent saree or Versace’s Spring Ready-To-Wear line consisting of ultra-bright hot pink and electric purple dresses introduced back in 1996, neon colors have an entirely different fanbase. Neon is a dull gas until you trap it in a tube and zap it with electricity. Pulled out of thin air, neon colors have become the next bright light of the modern world.

Psychedelic tapestry wall art made up of neon paint; Image Source: Etsy

The callous protagonist of Raymond Chandler’s detective novels was right about the world of neon colors. You’re most probably missing out on the happenings of the humongous and astonishing world of the internet if you haven’t yet scrolled through tons of Instagram and Snapchat posts that talk about nothing but nails and boots and hemmed skirts – all in fluorescent colors. Have you ever imagined yourself donning fluorescent party wear, neon nails, and confidently chiming in with the historical reason behind flaunting such bright threads? If yes, then you’re a real neon fan.

Kim Kadarshian’s Electric Blue Look; Image Source: Hollywood Life

Little did the inventors of neon light realize that their invention had the potential to set the night sky aglow in thousands of suburbs and cities. The colorful pictures and beautifully-calligraphed words emanating from the air are nothing but mysterious gases trapped in glass tubes and zapped with electricity current to produce brilliant results. Sounds impressive, isn’t it?

Lights powered by neon and other noble gases were emblems of business and entertainment during the twentieth century, lighting the modern era. Small neon tubes were used for circuitry and displays in specific computers and calculators. Many of the enormous, complex neon signs have faded away, supplanted by newer and less expensive innovations. These air tubes glow on a lesser level, valued for their brightness.

The tale of neon began long back in the 1890s with a Scottish chemist, Sir William Ramsay. Famous for the co-discovery of noble gases, including neon, argon, krypton, and xenon, he discovered two other separate gases called helium and radon. He was awarded the Nobel Prize. These six gases formed a separate family and were known for not being able to bond with other atoms. Isolated much, isn’t it? Perhaps this very nature gave them the title of “noble gases.”

When Google Doodle honored Sir William Ramsay on his 167th birthday; Image Source: Know Your Meme

Though each of these gases is invisible to the naked eye, these have their unique glow with distinctive colors on display. The brilliant colors emanate when these gases are trapped inside a glass tube and electricity is passed through them. These very tubes became the basis for the invention of neon lamps. Ramsay described the neon spectrum as “a brilliant flame-colored light, consisting of many red, orange, and yellow lines.”

Daniel McFarlan Moore- The inventor of Moore tube light; Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

Until the 1890s, neon light was a topic of fascination for most people. But it was Daniel McFarlan Moore who created magic, inspired by Thomas Edison’s incandescent lightbulbs. He filled 10-foot glass tubes with gases like nitrogen and carbon dioxide under extremely low pressure and added electrodes at both ends. The result was the infamous Moore Lamps, which glowed bright white when electricity was passed through it, proving that it was more efficient than the incandescent bulbs that were in use back then.

From these lamps originated the neon colors. Different proportions of these gases could now create brilliant colors. Neon can produce red and orange light. Argon could make violet or pale blue light. Helium could have orange, white, and pink-red light. Krypton could produce off-white, green, and yellow light. Xenon could produce grey, blue, off-white, and green light. Last but not least, radon could make yellow light.

Well, the tale of neon doesn’t end here. The first luminescent paint created by Bob Switzer and his brother Joseph took the world by surprise. Guess what; this invention, too, was an accident. After a severe accident, Bob had to spend his entire time in his room, resting in the dark. But the duo had different plans. With the help of blacklights, they would try to find fluorescent compounds from their father’s pharmaceutical materials. After Bob recovered from his injuries, they continued with their experiments. They tried mixing the fluorescent compounds with wood varnish to create neon paints.

Bob and Joseph Switzer- Inventors of DayGlo (1952); Image Source: Pinterest

Today, neon colors shine brightly on almost every street corner. Since fluorescent colors are always associated with bright, bold, and artificial synonyms, they aren’t considered good taste. Conversely, pastel or muted shades are linked to a more sophisticated and intellectual reputation. On the other hand, neon hues are associated with enjoyment, buffoonery, and excess. Further, neon lights are primarily seen in clubs, cities after dark, and bars, combined with dark hues like black or blue.

Neon accents on signs, ads, art, clothes, and even furniture may be helpful if used judiciously. Outrageous neon may be annoying to the eyes. However, a few splotches of neon here and there may result in lively and eye-catching pieces. So, whether bright colors are hot or not, they will still be an essential aspect of design.

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