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The use of commercial signage has a very ancient history. Retail signage and promotional signs appear to have developed independently in the East and the West. In antiquity, the ancient Egyptians, Romans and Greeks were known to use signage. In ancient Rome, signboards were used for shop fronts as well as to announce public events. Roman signboards were usually made from stone or terracotta. Alternatively, they were whitened areas, known as albums on the outer walls of shops, forums and marketplaces. Many Roman examples have been preserved; among them the widely recognized bush to indicate a tavern, from which is derived the proverb, "A good wine needs no bush". Apart from the bush, certain identifiable trade signs that survive into modern times include the three balls of pawnbrokers and the red and white barber's pole. Of the signs identified with specific trades, some of these later evolved into trademarks. This suggests that the early history of commercial signage is intimately tied up with the history of branding and labelling.

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