If you have traveled to Las Vegas, you have surely come across the Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign , a landmark of the city of Las Vegas in the state of Nevada erected and presented to the public in May 1959 by the local firm Western Neon.
The 7.5m high, internally illuminated Las Vegas sign was designed by the late artist and designer Betty Willis.
Betty Willis began designing signs, especially neon, in the 1950s for YESCO and other sign manufacturers of the time. In 1952 she moved to Western Neon, a small local business, where, in 1959, salesman Ted Rogich, father of political consultant Sig Rogich, had the idea of proposing a welcome sign for the highway arriving from Los Angeles.
The history of the Welcome to fabulous Las Vegas sign
Ted and Betty agreed that the sign had to be something eye-catching that would really proclaim the city “Las Vegas . ” The final design ended up being a slogan with fonts from different families, bordered with yellow light bulbs, and topped with an eight-pointed star that caught the attention of all the cars passing north on Highway 91, “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas.” ” (Welcome to fabulous Las Vegas).
Even though the highway technically belonged to the state of Nevada, Ted sold the sign to Clark County, where Mayor Harley E. Harmon, who “had a lot of swag in those days,” said, “To hell with the state.” “Put it on.”
Betty explained that the rounded diamond shape of the neon sign was inspired by the Goodyear logo of the time, and that the idea of the starburst came from that of the Disneyland logo, which to her meant a happy destiny.
The seven silver dollars behind each letter of “Welcome” were a symbol of good luck for visitors entering the gambling and casino capital of the world. Her design was never trademarked, as Betty felt the city needed free publicity, and it has been adapted into car flyers, Nevada license plates, marketing campaigns for Southwest Airlines, among thousands of other formats you’ve surely seen. in some place.
In 2005 Betty was interviewed by the New York Times where she said: “I never felt like a great artist in what I was doing, but I had good ideas. And she was willing to take the time to learn all the engineering and technical elements involved with neon signs.”
Neon Sign Museum executive director Danielle Kelly said: “ Betty Willis was a graphic designer who dominated an almost exclusively male field during the 1950s and 1960s (like Mad Men’s publicist Peggy Olson) .”