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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? Link

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 Link

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).


Specifications Link

  • 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 Link

  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.

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 Link

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!


Footnotes Link

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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 UX, front-end and performance problems in large companies. Get in touch.

  1. 1

    This is brilliant!
    Everywhere I go I admire/critique type. I cannot wait to see all the entries!

  2. 2

    Sounds awesome!

    I will begin scouring the San Diego area….

  3. 4

    Great Contest! I can’t wait to figure out what photos to send in.

  4. 5

    So interesting … lets start the show … sounds fun :)

  5. 6

    I actually have my own album of found typography on Flickr :)

  6. 7

    There are so many fantastic design patterns out there already! They just need to be incorporated and utilized for the web.

    I would love to see some kind of place to easily browse design patterns for inspiration. I hope that someone is planning this. Lots of traffic for sure!

    (PS After The Deadline-grammer-checker firefix plugin- doesn’t work in your comment box.. wierd)

  7. 8

    Typo, oh yeah i am going to streets and take some awesome typefacess

  8. 9

    The most interesting signs around here is a poster, done in Comic Sans, outside a power sub-station saying “Help Prevent a Tragedy.” And that is most defiantly not pretty.

  9. 10

    currently I don’t have a camera, but for whoever that lives in Mexico City (like me) a shot of the city’s metro signage would be a winner for sure, designed in the 60s by Lance Wyman it’s a masterpiece of signage design (both typo and icons)…

  10. 11

    O geez, this looks like fun. I can’t wait to see submissions.

  11. 12

    The Cleveland area is full of old, retro signage considering we have yet to shake our ‘rust-belt’ times. I am very excited for this

  12. 13

    I can hardly find much printed typography in INDIA
    But there are some nice hand painted signboards with many errors….

  13. 14

    Awesomeness! I love this kind of photography! Simply, BRILLIANT!

  14. 15

    Very cool, can’t wait to take my photos and see other entries

  15. 16

    Do signs in “Engrish” count? ;)

  16. 18

    Does, “Photos should not be already available elsewhere on the Web.” include on Flickr? I have some photos that I would love to submit but they are already on my Flickrstream. They are from travels around the US so I doubt I’ll be getting back to retake them anytime soon.

    • 19

      yes, it includes flickr and other websites.

      • 20

        Well, no offense but that’s kind of stupid. I was about to participate but I don’t want to go through the hassle of delete blog posts just because the pictures are shown there.

        • 21

          Some people don’t get what this competition is about. It’s about going out there and actually looking for something that might be suitable. Not to recycle some sign you have taken a photo off years ago, it would defeat the purpose. Zhu, if you don’t want to participate (because you are too lazy to do something for the price) fair enough – let someone win who can be arsed to make the effort.

          • 22

            Sure it’s fair to say that things shouldn’t have been unpublished previously (read: not used before) but saying it should have been photographed 5 minutes before submission is a bit silly… It would also mean photographers who use actual film instead of digital media are more or less excluded.

  17. 23

    great… for sure this will be hit… :-)

  18. 24

    How are you planning on making sure they are “manually” shot?

    • 25

      I had the same question. How am I supposed to win an SLR if I don’t already have an SLR? lol

      • 26

        I think that they are talking about actually shooting this rather than rebuilding/manipulating signs in Photoshop – but I might be wrong.

        • 27

          How are they planning on deciding if an image has been photoshopped. lol… The question works both ways :)

  19. 28

    So interesting … lets start the show

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  21. 30

    Brilliant contest..

  22. 31

    Can it be any language ? I mean other languages/script typography ?

  23. 33

    o i will take part!

  24. 34

    Can people from any country win ?

  25. 36

    yeah.. i’ll just pay for the shipping costs if i win… can somebody answer the question above please.. i’m also outside the country.

  26. 38

    Awesome, should be able get something interesting from South Africa.

  27. 40

    Our country isn’t so nice :( (everybody use the same signs) … but camera is very nice :DDD


  28. 41

    Bidyut Chakraborty

    August 17, 2010 12:22 am

    Photo title without any white space or special character – that is what you want? Well titles are normally more than one word!! What do I do then?

    • 42

      You can probably use a – or _ between the words, like in the example filename. I don’t think they’re considering those “special characters”

  29. 43

    So Interesting,——I like photography.

  30. 44

    I need to find some signs, definitely going to enter this! :-)

  31. 45

    This camera is one i would like to own. will participate in this contest. Hey folks chekout my blog

  32. 46

    Hey this is great!! Will learn a lot from it though

  33. 47

    i dont see “where to send” link or any emails, where i can send the pics or any join the contest link either…. :(
    first time i am visiting the site…. forgive my stupidity :-/

    • 48

      Tuhin, please check the submission guidelines above. Everything is written there.

  34. 49

    I only have one question: Why did you include that horrific Photoshopped “you look lovely today” sign? It devalues your whole post and implies you’ll be accepting stupid Photoshops instead of proper photography.

    • 50

      Scott, I am afraid I didn’t realize that it was Photoshopped. Thanks, I removed the image from the list.

  35. 51

    Mislav Marohnić

    August 17, 2010 3:23 am

    “The winner will be chosen randomly from among all accepted submissions.” — How is this a contest, exactly?

    • 52

      Yeah I spotted that too, surely this makes the “contest” just a lottery ???

    • 53

      Good point. OK, the winner will not picked randomly among all submitted photos, but only among best accepted photos (among 30 — 50 best ones, depending on the quantity of submissions). Otherwise there would be indeed no motivation to submit good photos.

  36. 56

    Bidyut Chakraborty

    August 17, 2010 3:37 am

    Vitaly, I didnt get my answer. Will you tell me if I can give photo title with several words and with white space in between them? I am ready with the photograph!!

    • 57


      see the example it says “shining-airport-signage.jpg”

      use – (hyphen) instead of spaces.

      mera-bharat-mahan :) hope u get it

      • 58

        @Bidyut please use hyphen instead of spaces, as vijayraj said above.

        • 59

          Bidyut Chakraborty

          August 18, 2010 9:17 am

          Well thanks both of you. It was the restriction on special characters that stopped me to use dash too. So, dash is not considered as special character! That’s fine and sensible!

  37. 60

    Can we use photoshop to apply sepia tones or black and white? (not editing the actual shot)

  38. 62

    Nice contest ! I am going to the train station now :)

  39. 63

    Railway Station, Bus station, Airports, Hotels, Motels, Highways, Temples, Churches, Mosques, Malls, Zoo, Resorts, Waterparks, Public Urinals, Parking Lot, Dockyards………

    Dont go there

    i m going to cover those :)

    @smashing plz book my camera

  40. 64

    Edward Olive (wedding) photographer from Madrid

    August 17, 2010 5:20 am

    I am sending a couple of shots. I just hope the way to send them in has been done correctly by me

  41. 65

    This is awesome. I will surely enter and post on my blog.

  42. 66

    what if i don’t have site’s URL?
    what should i write in details?

  43. 68

    errrrrr guys :

    “The winner will be chosen randomly from among all accepted submissions.”

    Lottery ??? No judges ??

    • 69

      just noticed that too!

      • 70

        Again, good point. OK, the winner will not picked randomly among all submitted photos, but only among best accepted photos (among 30 — 50 best ones, depending on the quantity of submissions). Otherwise there would be indeed no motivation to submit good photos.

        • 71

          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.

  44. 72

    Tonnes of signs in Cairo, with the weirdest spelling mistakes, and some very nice calligraphy ones too. Tough choice.

  45. 73

    What a brilliant project.

  46. 74

    Awesome idea for a contest! I have a question, though. Is the contest open to brand / logo signage, such as a hotel neon sign or a store-front sign? What about stickers found in urban areas?

    • 75

      It all would work, Josh! We don’t really have any restrictions or limitations — it’s up for you to decide!

  47. 76

    Seems Vitaly was inspired after reading our magazine about Wayfinding and Legibility magazine. ;-)

    • 77

      :-) Ralf, actually I just ordered it, and I haven’t received it yet ;-)

      The idea for the contest came from my journey to Prague just two weeks ago — I’ve found a couple of really interesting signs and on my way back to Freiburg, Germany I just had this idea of running a contest about Wayfinding signs. Now let’s see how it will turn out! :-)

  48. 78

    Do store signs count or just directional/street signs?

  49. 80

    Would it be a stupid question to ask, what exactly would make one a good entry? Would it be the “good photograph” side, or the “good typography” side.

    Did random shots yesterday… hopefully I’ll be able to send one or two. =D

    • 81

      We are looking for original, manually shot photographs of typography and public signage. 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. The more original your photo is, the better.

  50. 82

    Wow, this sounds awesome, I definitely will be in!!!


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