Neon is a fun and experimental color. Once I walked into a store with neon lights and it was so bright I had to close my eyes. Neon signs for bars can seem daunting, but there are some things you should be mindful of when designing your own sign.
Why does neon work so well? It can easily stand out from other colors and it has an energy-infused feeling that makes people want to read or explore more closely. There are plenty of ways to incorporate neon into your designs, but sometimes limitations on colors might cause you to reconsider the colors being used in a design.
Neon dos are:
1. Make sure that neon is the main color.
Neon has to be the main color for it to work. You can’t just throw in a few lines and expect a successful neon sign. It needs to be used with other colors and/or words such as black, white, or another bright color.
2. Be aware of the audience of your design.
Neon can be for everyone, but you should know who will be viewing your sign and see if it’s appropriate for them (not everyone finds bathroom humor funny).
3. Don’t ever use neon in dark photographs or pictures.
It almost never looks good and is more of a distraction to the reader than something that has purpose.
4. Avoid using a lot of neon in the design.
Neon can be overdone and become annoying and distracting. If you’re going to use neon, keep it light and playful.
5. Don’t incorporate neon into the background unless it’s in a photo or illustration.
Neon goes well with other colors, but it’s not as appealing when it’s behind something else or being used to fill up space on the sign itself. The pattern tends to become bland, very 2-dimensional, and can start to distract from what’s being said afterwards as well as other parts of the sign…unless the main focus of the sign is a photo or illustration.
6. Avoid using neon in black and white images.
It might seem like a good idea to use neon over black and white, but it tends to make it look grainy and out-of-focus, like an old film or a newspaper that’s been folded too much.
7. Use neon in bullet points if you choose to use them at all.
Bullets are fine to use when you don’t want your reader to read the words as much as just quickly scan them for important information, but try not to make them your main focus unless you have some sort of important message that needs emphasis (in which case I would avoid bullets altogether).
Neon don’ts are:
1. Don’t overuse it.
If neon is the only color in your design, then it’s a waste of color that won’t be seen very well (unless your design is very small). It should be only used with other bright and fun colors or with black, white, and other saturated colors to emphasize the neon you’re using.
2. Don’t use it for web sites or minimalistic designs.
Neon isn’t often used for sites or web design because it can be complicated to edit. Also, neon is typically used for signs, and if you’re trying to mimic an actual sign, the designs that look most effective are the ones where it’s incorporated in the background with an image or shape behind it that’s more salient than neon.
3. Don’t use it when there are other more powerful color choices available.
If there’s a much more powerful color such as orange or yellow on your site (or anywhere really), use those instead of neon unless they’re not available or aren’t being used in a similar way (for example, you could use a bright red circle as a background but not have a bright green circle).
4. Don’t use a lot of letters in neon.
Neon might be an appealing idea to use because you want to fill up the space with more text, but too much text in one color makes it hard for readers to take it all in, and it can become uncomfortable for them to read through (unless you put a lot of white space around them or have another color you’re incorporating into the design).
5. Don’t use neon in large amounts of advertisements.
While it can get people’s attention, if you use neon too much it begins to feel like an ad instead. Neon is more of an accent than a main color in most cases.
6. Don’t use neon as the background color if you don’t have photos or illustrations behind it.
I’ve already said this, but I’ll say it again because it’s important. Neon is used best when there’s something more prominent behind it that can be seen easily and will make the neon stand out more effectively (plus photos and illustrations usually look the most interesting with neon everywhere).
Neon can be useful and fun to incorporate into your website and designs, but you should know the restrictions that come with using neon and how to best use it.
I hope this article has given you some ideas on how to use neon effectively in your own design!