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The emergence of signaling systems has been observed in numerous experimental and real-world contexts, but there is no consensus on which (if any) shared mechanisms underlie such phenomena. A number of explanatory mechanisms have been proposed within several disciplines, all of which have been instantiated as credible working models. However, they are usually framed as being mutually incompatible. Using an exemplar-based framework, we replicate these models in a minimal configuration which allows us to directly compare them. This reveals that the development of optimal signaling is driven by similar mechanisms in each model, which leads us to propose three requirements for the emergence of conventional signaling. These are the creation and transmission of referential information, a systemic bias against ambiguity, and finally some form of information loss. Considering this, we then discuss some implications for theoretical and experimental approaches to the emergence of learned communication.