As the UK’s businesses open their doors once more, our high streets are set to be brighter than ever according to custom made neon sign specialists, Neon Creations, which has reported a surge in enquiries, as business owners turn to the ‘optimistic interiors trend’ to entice customers back to their premises.

It was social media platform, Pinterest which first heralded the neon boom at the end of 2020, with an 800 per cent increase in searches for ‘neon room’ over the last 12 months. The platform predicted that the popular design trend was set to be bigger than ever as we emerge into a post-pandemic world on a quest for interiors that not only look great but make us feel good too.

Despite a tough 12 months for UK business owners, custom neon design specialists, Neon Creations is predicting a record year for sales as shops, bars, restaurants and even home owners look to inject some fun, personality and a warm glow into their interior design to attract customers and keep them in their venues.

According to Catherine Spink, co-founder of Neon Creations, consumer desire for fun escapism and optimism are driving the emergence of a number of sub-trends within the sector, of which neon sits front and centre.

Catherine explains: “Neon is an interior trend that has been around for decades, but it is really starting to gain in momentum this year in both commercial spaces and residential homes.

“Neon is fun, vibey and colourful and can inject a lot of personality into a space, making a big impact design statement and insta-ready photo opportunity that can create huge social media appeal. Ultimately customers, especially younger clientele, want optimism, colour and fun when it comes to the places that they are socialising in and this trend is rippling through the hospitality sector as establishments look to outshine the competition.

“As bars and restaurants have started to gear up to welcoming people back into outdoor and indoor spaces, we have started to see a number of key trends in the way that neon is being used in commercial design. Here are four key ways how it’s driving modern bar and restaurant design trends in 2021.


The return of retro

The retro design trend often sees a resurgence every few years and, after a tough 12 months, consumers are demanding fun, personality and nostalgia from bars and restaurants – and retro themes align well with this stream of consciousness. Of course, retro doesn’t mean having to go all out 1950’s diner – broadly speaking, retro can encompass design from the 1930’s to the 1960’s opening up a whole range of inspiration. Business-owners are not only using signage to capture this fun, retro vibe – neon artwork can also add a subtle vintage feel to an establishment.


Make it personal

Bars and restaurants are increasingly using design to make their offering as bespoke and personal as possible. Handmade and custom-made furniture and décor are being used to successfully combine relevance and references to the past – and neon has a role to play here. Drawing on local phraseology and working with artists and designers on artwork, murals and design features is an extremely popular way of creating an uber personalised space. As is requests for signage using handwriting which is growing in popularity in commercial spaces.


The insta-ready backdrop

Commercial interior designers have been creating spaces with social sharing in mind for a number of years, but as bars and restaurants compete to win back business, now more than ever having visual appeal is at the heart of interior design choices. An iconic Instagram picture opportunity can drive widespread appeal across the social media platform, with customers keen to capture a landmark picture for their feed. When it comes to using neon for Instagram appeal, the key is knowing and understanding your audience and creating a visual that will appeal to them. Cheeky phrases, fun quotes and straplines are going to more shareable than branding and practical messaging in this instance. Business owners should also think carefully about the positioning of the sign too. It needs to be somewhere that is easily accessible for a picture, whilst not causing obstructions and the background needs to be as insta-ready as the sign itself. Toilets are a popular Insta-haven and we are seeing more bars and restaurants creating signs specifically for this space.


Design-led practicality

Just because neon signage is widely used as a design feature, doesn’t mean that it can’t be practical too. The hospitality sector has been through a seismic shift and now more than ever, clear signage and signposting is crucial to the customer experience. Neon is turning this from a formality into a design statement.

Takeaway is now a huge part of the sector’s offering and many restaurants and eateries are set to continue to rely on this valuable income stream as they open up their restaurant spaces. With this in mind, we have seen a marked increase in enquiries and orders for signage which differentiates a takeaway offering – signposting people to a pick up kiosk or other dedicated space. This type of zoning is going to be crucial to the future of restaurant design as business owners run an upscaled takeaway offering, alongside their usual in-house experience.

“The flexibility of this design trend is one of the crucial factors in driving it forward in 2021 as business owners look to make a long-term investment into the aesthetic of their bar and restaurant. Whilst LED signage and off the shelf designs, can offer a cheaper alternative, there is a growing desire for handcrafted and authentic neon creations – with small business owners supporting and respecting the skillset required to create a truly bespoke design.

“The second half of 2021 is set to be a significant time for the UK hospitality industry and it is clear that design is set to play a huge role in reshaping the industry as it emerges from a year of disruption and evolution.”