Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown celebrated the idea of “ugly and ordinary” architecture in their 1972 book Learning from Las Vegas. They defended the term, saying that “ugly and ordinary items in culture represent the democratic segment of society, as they embody mass consciousness”. The graphic signage of the Strip, then, is saying where a party can be had.
The Las Vegas of the suburbs is lined with big-box shops, fast-food chains and stores that sell just mufflers, just pet supplies, just brown shoes. They announce what they are about. They say: “We are toys/kids/babies”; “We may be a lowly shack, but we have telecommunications”; “We are the king of burgers”; “Dunk some donuts.” Those last two – Burger King and Dunkin’ Donuts – had enormous two-tone signs, both with giant bubble letters set in redrawn versions of VAG Rounded and Hot Dog, respectively. I used to think the two were related – one for supper, the other for dessert – but then I became an adult. Burger King urbanised and swooshed its logo. Dunkin’ Donuts added a coffee-cup icon (which had an unrevised logo on the cup) but it kept the type, and more importantly, its celebratory colours.