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Nam Wah Neon Company Archive 南華光管公司作品檔案

The Nam Wah Neon Company Archive consists of 325 objects (198 design drawings, 122 photographs, 3 books,1 print, 1 handwritten document). Nam Wah Neonlight & Electrical Mfy. Ltd. is one the few remaining early and large-scale neon companies founded in Hong Kong and this collection helps us trace the neon industry’s development in Hong Kong since the 1950s, which itself forms an iconic area of Hong Kong visual culture. The selection of neon sign sketches includes work by both Nam Wah Neonlight & Electrical Mfy. Ltd. and Neco Neon Co., Ltd. Together, the sketches reflect the wide range of industries that the two companies created neon signs for, such as food and beverage, entertainment, hospitality, domestic product, transportation, pharmaceutical, tobacco, fashion, jewellery, watch, electronics and banking industries, as well as pawn shops.
In addition to offering a view into Hong Kong's commercial history, these sketches provide essential insight into the design process of neon signs before the introduction of computers into the design process. Typically, when a new sign was commissioned, the neon company would provide a hand-painted proof, drawn to scale, for the client to sign off, with tubing layout and other instructions were often marked directly onto the sketch or a piece of tracing paper. In the earlier drawings in this collection, gridlines were applied over the sketches, which facilitated enlarging them to full scale. Around the 1980s, however, projectors were increasingly employed for this purpose, and neon sign makers no longer needed to manually magnify the designs, causing hand-painted sketches to give way to photocopied drafts as the basis for designing and marking instructions. Introduction of computers to the design process in the late 1980s eventually eradicated all need for physical sketches.
While the sketches provide deeper understandings of the design process, the photographs reveal the final product and context, representing Nam Wah’s documentation of their realised neon works and can be roughly grouped into streetscapes, cityscapes, stand-alone signs and groups of signs. For example, while a sketch for the National neon sign shows the design's intention, it is only through the related photographs that one can appreciate the enormous scale of the finished neon sign, which in the 1970s was considered the world's largest. Three technical books are included in the collection, which served as important reference materials for Nam Wah employees on the subject of neon sign and neon transformer manufacturing and help contextualise this collection.
The Nam Wah Neon Company Archive was donated by Chung Wah Nan Architects Limited in 2015.


Object Number
Archival Level
322 items
Credit Line
M+, Hong Kong. Gift of Nam Wah Neonlight & Electrical Mfy, Ltd., 2015
Paint, ink, and graphite design drawing on paper depicting a sign. The dark blue trapezoidal section above features the company name 'NAM WAH NEON CO' using white traditional Chinese characters. The blue and white striped shape below with a lower pointed edge displays the English company name in yellow. The side on our right is left unpainted.

Neon sign design sketches by Nam Wah Neon Company and the Nam Wah Neonlight and Electrical Manufactory Limited

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Neon sign design sketches by other design companies

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Neon sign design sketches by unknown creators

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Photographs, neon signs, Hong Kong

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Publications and other documents

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Neco Neon Company design sketches

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