The World Of Signage Photo Contest: Join In and Win a Digital SLR Camera!


Update: the results of the contest are published1 now.

This one’s easy: take a shot, send us the image and win a Canon EOS Digital Rebel XS digital SLR camera. Typography and icons are everywhere: they surround us, guide us, help us find the right path every day. As Web designers and graphic artists, we can learn from observing the type and public signage around us. How do designers of those graphics combine type, visual design and pictograms? How do they guide us through our day? More importantly, how do they design their graphics to meaningfully serve their purpose in particular settings?

That’s what we want to find out with this photo contest. We encourage you to go out with your camera, shoot nice typography or public signage, and send the photo (or photos) to us (see details below). And the best part: everyone can participate.

What Are We Looking For?

We are looking for original, manually shot photographs of typography and public signage. The most obvious elements that come to mind are street signs, building facades, highway markers and road signs, as well as wayfinding graphics (i.e. directional signage) in public venues such as stadiums, malls, museums, cinemas, theaters and cafés. Bus stop signs, underground signs, park signs, metro signage, hospital room signs, conference, hotel and office signs, emergency and exit signs and signs in shops and stores would work, too. Look around, pay attention and have a camera ready. That’s really all you need!

At Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport, numbers in each terminal’s letter indicate the walking time. Simple yet beautiful. (Image credit3.)

It would be nice to see signage in a variety of languages and in globally diverse locations. We’re hoping to find similarities that communicate visually across cultures. Please feel free to submit unusual and humorous signs as well! Check out examples of what we’re looking for4 to get your creative juices flowing.

This is How You Find5
“This Is How You Find ↓.” A wayfinding sign in IKEA in Sweden. (Image credit6.)

The Prize

The camera below can be yours. One participant in this contest will win this best-selling digital SLR camera, the Canon EOS Digital Rebel XS (EOS 1000D)7, with a 10.1 megapixel CMOS sensor, high-precision 7-point wide-area autofocus sensor, and an Image Stabilizer-equipped EF-S 18–55mm f/3.5–5.6 IS Lens. The winner will be chosen randomly from among all accepted submissions best accepted submissions (among 30 — 50 best submissions, depending on the number of submissions).



  • Format: JPG
  • All photos should have a width of at least 700 pixels.
  • All photos should be of high quality and shouldn’t have any artefacts (e.g. they shouldn’t be blurry).
  • The total file size of your submission should not exceed 15 MB.
  • Each participant can send at most three photos.

Submission Guidelines

  1. Please download the starter kit9 first.
  2. The starter kit folder contains a plain-text file, details.txt. Please edit it by adding details about your submission.
  3. Name your photos meaningfully, and don’t use empty spaces or special characters (e.g. shining-airport-signage.jpg instead of DSC0815378.jpg).
  4. Please add your photo (or photos) to the folder. Do not include any advertisements.
  5. With your images in the folder, archive the folder as a ZIP file. The file should have a clear name (e.g.
  6. Please send your submission to… The contest is over. No more submissions are accepted.
  7. Please note: submissions will be processed automatically. Please make sure your submission follows the requirements above, otherwise it will not be processed.

Copyright, Labels, Watermarks

Embedding copyright information, a watermark or URL in a photo will spoil it; please avoid adding anything that isn’t a part of the image itself. Participants should own the copyright of any photos they send. You can specify the license under which you want your image(s) to be released using the starter kit. Photos should not be already available elsewhere on the Web.

Deadline and Announcement

Send us your photos by 27 August 2010. The winner will be announced a few days after. We will present all interesting photos here on Smashing Magazine, including the names and URLs of the participants chosen, of course. If we get enough submissions, we will sort and categorize the photos in the article.


This contest is all about creativity, so get out your camera and start shooting. Good signage doesn’t necessarily have to be “clean.” On the contrary, some beautiful and original examples can be found where nobody bothers to look. Just be curious, and take a closer look around you. You may want to look at these articles for ideas: Vintage and Retro Typography Showcase10 and Showcase Of Beautiful Vintage and Retro Signage11.


Haas Unica at Olympiastadion13

531 West 25th Street Lobby14


waiting hall of connecting flights16

The Barbican Centre!17

The Barbican Centre18

The Barbican Centre19

Cool signage20

Metro maps21


Kj in Vintage and Retro Typography Showcase23


sinalización facultade en pontevedra25


The Crime of Typographic Cleansing in Action at Heathrow27

Seattle Parking Garage - Floor 528


emergency telephone handsets30

Sorry for the Inconvenience31

Subway Signage32

Bar, this way [sign]33


T3 CGK: Exit Door35

Thai airport sign36

helvetica ad infinitum37

Amsterdam Schiphol Airport: Signs38

Good luck, and get creative, folks!



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Vitaly Friedman loves beautiful content and doesn’t like to give in easily. Vitaly is writer, speaker, author and editor-in-chief of Smashing Magazine. He runs responsive Web design workshops, online workshops and loves solving complex performance problems in large companies. Get in touch.

  1. 1

    Signage is one of my favourite <3!

  2. 52

    This is really interesting and am sure this will get maximum participants than any other contest. I would like to see more contest like this in the future, I just love SM…

  3. 103

    Jeremiah selengia

    August 17, 2010 11:57 pm

    Awesome im spreading the news to photographers/designers her in Tanzania. Sweet

  4. 154

    Thanks for changing the rules Vitaly, I am now about to go get some shooting done :)

    Good Luck all :)

  5. 205

    I’m not in the US. I live in Asia. Can I participate or are the rules only for people there?

    • 256

      read the rules James, it is for everyone all over the world, and with different languages too.

  6. 307

    Wow:) Awesome contest .I will try. Thanks

  7. 358

    Nice contest. I want this camera. I will positively post something very different. :)

  8. 409

    Does it have to be a digital image? or can it be taken with a holga and scanned in?

  9. 511

    @ Vitaly,
    Is this contest happened globally?? or any area bounding?

  10. 613

    Thanks Vitaly for adjusting the selection rules :)

  11. 664

    Oooh this is gonna be a big one. I’ll scout around for the next few days and see if I can come up with anything good. Good luck everyone!

  12. 715

    Love these kind of contests. Thx, SM

  13. 766

    Perhaps a stupid question, but what does “manually shot” mean?

    • 817

      It means that you should own the copyright for the image, the image shouldn’t be copied from somewhere in the Web

  14. 868

    time to crank up my camera ;)

  15. 919

    The instructions in the submission kit are contradictory. On one hand every picture should be in it’s own folder. On the other hand you ask to simply add a line to the details.txt (which is inside the folder) for every photo. Can you elaborate on how to submit multiple photos?

    • 970

      I think it’s 1 folder. In the folder you have 3 pictures [ assuming you have 3 pictures]. In addition to that you have a text file with the information about the pictures as outlined in the kit. So in total 3 picture files and 1 text file in one zipped folder.

  16. 1072

    hoping i will win a camera…

  17. 1123

    I took a few pictures but its lopsided. If I use photoshop to straightened it out, will the pictures still be considered manually taken because the exif data may show that its been photoshopped. Nothing else has been edited except straightening.

  18. 1174

    Question: when editing details.txt, should i remove the ‘IMPORTANT’ and ‘NOTICE’ lines?

  19. 1276

    You know what would be great? If I could delete dumb comments I make… didn’t get much sleep last night; realized it’s send to email. Never mind, made a bit of a fool of myself worldwide!

  20. 1327

    I’m still not clear about this submission guideline :
    “5. With your images in the folder, archive the folder as a ZIP file. The file should have a clear name (e.g.”

    If I have 3 images in the folder ( airport-signage.jpg, street-signage.jpg, store-signage.jpg ), what should I name the zip file? Can I name it any name from those 3 image?

  21. 1429

    I just sent mine :)

  22. 1480

    Can a person’s three photos be accepted as finalist or is it only the best of the three from each person that can proceed to finals?

    Do the photos need EXIF data? Such data is usually removed when I change the photo format or down sample it to meet the size limit.

    • 1531

      Yes, and we don’t need EXIF data.

      • 1582

        Sorry I don’t understand what you are saying yes to? All three can be finalist or only one can be finalist.

        • 1633

          Theoretically, it is possible that a person’s three photos will be accepted as finalist. Photos do not need EXIF data.

  23. 1735

    Hi Vitaly, could I just confirm something regarding the details.txt file. I have 3 images – bike-sign.jpg, bus-sign.jpg, and park-sign.jpg – which of the 2 examples below would be the correct way to submit the information in the txt doc?

    Example 1:

    | bike-sign | bus-sign | park-sign | John Smith | website | UK | Sign on a bike, sign on a bus, sign in a park | No License |


    Example 2:

    | bike-sign | John Smith | website | UK | Sign on a bike | No License |

    | bus-sign | John Smith | website | UK | Sign on a bus | No License |

    | park-sign | John Smith | website | UK | Sign in a park | No License |

    Thanks in advance

  24. 1837

    Hi! Is it ok if I crop my photo?

  25. 1939

    The date is coming! who will be the winner, may I ? ;)

  26. 1990

    what the subject of the email ? Please anwer :-)

  27. 2092

    Is it ok to postprocess my photo? Nothing major, just cropping, a bit of color-enhancement, and maybe vignette. Would that be alright?

  28. 2194

    Does anyone have suggestions on how to write the license?

    • 2245

      It’s very simple. By default, you own the copyright for the photo. But you can license it under Creative Commons license or any other license — it’s up to you.

  29. 2296

    Yeah, I hope I win. I want to pursue my dream to be full-pledge photographer. A canon will help me to be able do that. I take shot what it seems good to me and looks funny or a little humor inside.


  30. 2347

    Just tried to send my submission, received a bounceback that the email box is over quota and my submission failed…..

    • 2398

      Please try again. We’ve received over 70 submissions at once and the box was full. :(

  31. 2449

    Same here! Received a bounceback. Are we to late?

  32. 2500


    What do you mean about the site’s url? blogs? what if I don’t have a blog?


  33. 2653

    Why I couldn’t submit the photos? Today is still 27th.

  34. 2704

    I hope I get shortlisted and then go on to win! Still don’t have a digital SLR as I’m a student with no money. My photos were shot on good old fashioned film with a Pentax K1000. Cannon would be a step up.


  35. 2755

    Good luck guys! :)
    And best wishes from India.

  36. 2806

    Thank you very much for all your submissions, guys! No more submissions are accepted, we are starting processing the submissions right away. However, because we received many more entries than expected, it may take a while. Please stay tuned.

    • 2857

      How many entries did you guys receive? I can’t wait to see the entries. It should be amazing and unique.

      • 2908

        We received overall 2300 entries, and we are sorting and grouping all of them right now. Unfortunately, it takes more time than we expected. But we are on it. Please stay tuned.

  37. 2959

    Keeping my fingers crossed !!!

  38. 3010

    IMO, Smashing Magazine should mention the time zone in the deadline like other contests. Not all readers are from Germany.

  39. 3061

    Check out this pictures.. I know its a little late but I think its worth it:

    Hope you like it.

  40. 3112

    Excited to see those shots… :-)

    I hope the winners are deserving… :-)

  41. 3163

    aloysius alphonsus

    September 1, 2010 9:48 pm

    great stuff
    cool contest , I could not agree more with the concept .

  42. 3214

    When do winners list launch?

  43. 3316

    I also want to know. Mr Vitaly Friedman!

  44. 3367

    A camera, and 20 min in any Dutch city will give you just what you need for this! Love everything about the clean Euro style with colour and typography.

    • 3418

      Totally agree with Ayedee- even though it was the late (GULP) 1980s when I lived Northern Germany (and thus took the train to Amsterdam any chance I got), I loved all the Dutch signage- even the wonderful well-placed, clean white stripes and lettering all over the pavement!

  45. 3469

    Just got back from holiday and saw this contest (great ideas by the way!) and am gutted I missed the deadline!!

    I have a great image a path sign that I could have submitted!!

    Oh well may be next time!

    Good luck to all who entered!


  46. 3520

    when will the results be out? :)

    • 3571

      We all want to know. 10 days. So long time. Smashing magazine! Please tell us who win.

      • 3622

        Please be patient. We have received just too many photos, so it takes some time.

      • 3673

        Good grief why are you guys being so rude and demanding? They are doing their best. This should be fun for all of us including them. Let them have some time peruse the entries rather than pressure and rush them. sheessh

  47. 3724

    Pierre Von Schmytt

    September 8, 2010 12:34 am

    Come on Smashing! Why the media blackout?

    Can you give us a timeframe for showing us all the photies?

    Ta laa!

  48. 4030

    btw. its next week now. :)

  49. 4081

    It’s already next week now. Where?

  50. 4132

    It is middle of the (next) week already ;)


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