Signs have been used throughout history. The Ancient Romans, Greeks and Egyptians were the first civilizations that we know of that specifically created signs in order to inform fellow citizens about the location of a certain business or to describe the work being performed inside its walls.

Most of the early signs used symbols and emblems instead of words, which was were particularly helpful in civilizations where large populations were unable to read. Civilizations adopted certain symbols that represented certain businesses. Some of the most common signs were for taverns, which the Ancient Romans signified through the use of a bush (based on the proverb that “good wine needs no bush). Travelers could simply look for a piece of stone or terracotta with the bush symbol to know that a tavern lied behind the doors.

As civilizations became more urban and cities begin to grow, a simple sign announcing the local tavern no longer sufficed because there could be more than one tavern (or other type of business). Business owners would add certain logos, characters, or other devices in order to distinguish their shop from their competitors.

From the beginning, signs were used to attract the attention and business of potential customers. Signs had the ability to communicate information to any person who passed by, encouraging them to make certain decisions based off that information. In general, the four most common types of communication done through signs are:

Information: services, facilities, maps, instructions, etc.

Direction: informing people where to go

Identification: informing customers what certain places and locations are, such as room numbers, business names, etc.

Safety: warning or safety instructions, rules, regulations, etc.

In today’s society, signs are used in most businesses, schools, communities and events. They differ in size, shape, color and information, but they all follow the original purpose of communicating information and influencing decisions. When used effectively and wisely, they can go a long way in helping your customers and increasing your business.

When in Rome: The History of the Sign

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