The Imageable City – Visual Language of Hong Kong Neon Lights Deconstructed

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Hong Kong as an international city has long held the title of ‘Pearl of the Orient’, known for its gleaming night view. The Hong Kong Tourist Association often featured local neon signs as promotional visuals, a way of attracting foreign visitors in response to exotic voyeurism and imagination. However, numerous neon signs had been taken down since the Buildings Department issued statutory removal orders in 2010, leading to the gradual disappearance of a unique facet of vernacular visual culture. The emergence and decline of neon signs tell rich stories of everyday life, spatial culture, community memories, and socio-economic change. This article attempts to categorize and analyse 400+ local neon signs of varying types documented since 2015, exploring the following questions: What are the social functions of neon signs, and how do they connect with visual communication and the city? How do neon signs construct the image of the city?
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)535-556
Number of pages22
JournalThe Design Journal
Issue number4
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 9 Jun 2020


  • Hong Kong
  • neon lights
  • streetscape
  • visual communication
  • visual culture

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Computer Graphics and Computer-Aided Design


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