Cleveland might be famous for its Browns, but did you know it’s also home to the makers of DayGlo? In an unassuming brick complex on the outskirts of the city, workers manufacture the brilliant fluorescent pigment that eventually finds its way into road signs, toys, glow sticks, and millions of other products.
After the American Chemical Society designated the DayGlo factory as a National Historic Chemical Landmark this fall, a camera crew visited the complex to take a look. Their short documentary, The World’s Most Colorful Factory, explains a number of things, like what fluorescence is (a form of luminescence that absorbs ultraviolet light as well as the visible spectrum), how it’s made into a pigment (by combining dyes with a special type of resin), and how much DayGlo is made every year (4.5 million pounds). But to me, the highlight is the eye-popping visuals. It’s as if Holi is being celebrated every day of the year inside DayGlo’s walls.
These factories have operated for nearly 70 years—and they look it. Bob Switzer, the inventor of the fluorescent paint, developed it while in long-term recovery from brain trauma, which required him to stay in a dark room. The U.S. Army took an interest in the stuff during World War II, and by 1946, Switzer had built his first factory in Cleveland. Today, the crew at DayGlo uses many of the same machines, now coated in a fine fluorescent powder from decades of work.