The Culture Log | Signs of NYC

Introducing The Culture Log... A stream of consciousness featuring anything and everything that inspires our thinking. First up, sign spotting in NYC...

From ‘Colossal’ murals in Brooklyn to the oversized digital displays of Times Square, the kitsch of Coney Island and a very special vintage neon in the East Village, it’s a hive of inspiration for the sign spotter, we captured signs of all shapes and sizes across the five boroughs. Here’s a few of our favourites... 


1071 5th Avenue

Frank Lloyd Wright's landmark building is a fitting way to start and an absolute must visit. Opened in 1959 it became one of the most celebrated and controversial buildings in modern architecture, its Art Deco ‘one of a kind’ architectural signage is synonymous with the museum's identity, but remarkably it wasn’t until the 90s that its logo, designed by Vignelli Associates, directly referenced it’s iconic signage. Since then it has gone on to underpin most aspects of the Guggenheim's visual branding.


2 East 91st Street (A 2 minute walk from The Guggenhiem)

As part of a three year renovation in 2014, Pentagram developed a new identity including a vibrant and contemporary signage and environmental graphics scheme for the museum. The 3-dimensional signage at the entrances, accentuated by bright orange returns, create a bold, impactful statement balancing well against the extremely ornate Andrew Carnegie Mansion.

Photo credit - James & Karla Murray

Photo credit - James & Karla Murray


East Village on 2nd Avenue at 6th Street

Block was established in 1885 and its iconic neon sign is said to date back to 1945. The orange and pink neon is best viewed in the shorter days of the winter months as it is turned off each night at 7pm. This has to be our favourite sign of the trip; the classic neon letterforms are incredible, they have stood the test of time and then some, hopefully this much loved family run pharmacy along with its neon signs will be around for many years to come.

We weren't around to capture it at night but fortunately our friends James & Karla Murray were kind enough to allow the use of their incredible night time shot. James and Karla are New York based professional photographers and authors. They have been capturing impeccably accurate photographs of New York City since the 90s and have released a number of critically acclaimed books including Store Front: The Disappearing Face of New YorkNew York NightsStore Front II- A History Preserved and Broken Windows-Graffiti NYC. For more check out their website and you should also follow their brilliant instagram account @jamesandkarla

McSorleys Old Ale House

East Village, 15 East 7th Street

McSorley's Old Ale House is one of the oldest bars in Manhattan. Established in 1854, the bar still serves its signature ale and sits in the same location as it did from the beginning. Amongst its vintage hand painted signage one of their mottos is ‘We were here before you were born.' If you decide to pop in for a drink (and you absolutely should) ordering is easy, they sell two drinks, light or dark ale.


Nathan’s Famous
1310 Surf Avenue, Coney Island

The original Nathan's restaurant has stood at the corner of Surf and Stillwell Avenues in Coney Island, Brooklyn since it started out as nickel hot dog stand in 1916. The history of the site is reflected by the layer upon layer of branding that adorn the building, from neon to hand painted it’s got the lot (and the hotdogs are decent).

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Corner of West Broadway and Reade Street, Tribeca

Apparently this giant ghost sign is an old advert for painted outdoor advertising, an ad for ads. Its one of the most decorative and well preserved I have seen. New York is a hot bed for spotting these old faded adverts and as good a reason as the incredible architecture for you to cast your eyes up above street level whilst walking through the city.


Radio City Music Hall
1260 6th Avenue

One of the most instantly recognisable building frontages epitomising the bright lights of New York City. This Art Deco facade is notable for the marquee neon sign that wraps around the corner of 6th Avenue and 50th Street, as well as the incredible, seven-story-high signs on the north and south ends.


Trinity Place, Lower Manhattan

The American Stock Exchange Building, formerly known as the New York Curb Exchange Building and before that home of the New York Curb Market, is the former headquarters of the American Stock Exchange. Built in 1921, the building complete with its original sign permanently incised into the stone facade, represents a link to the historical practices of stock trading outside the strictures of the New York Stock Exchange, which took place outside ("on the curb") prior to the construction of this building. It was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1978.