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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 published361 now.

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? [Content Care Dec/22/2016]

Further Reading on SmashingMag: Link

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 credit6.)

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 for7 to get your creative juices flowing.

This is How You Find8
“This Is How You Find ↓.” A wayfinding sign in IKEA in Sweden. (Image credit9.)


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 Olympiastadion12

531 West 25th Street Lobby


waiting hall of connecting flights14

The Barbican Centre!15

The Barbican Centre16

The Barbican Centre17

Cool signage18

Metro maps19


Kj in Vintage and Retro Typography Showcase21


sinalización facultade en pontevedra23


The Crime of Typographic Cleansing in Action at Heathrow25

Seattle Parking Garage - Floor 526


emergency telephone handsets28

Sorry for the Inconvenience29

Subway Signage30

Bar, this way [sign]31


T3 CGK: Exit Door

Thai airport sign33

helvetica ad infinitum34

Amsterdam Schiphol Airport: Signs35

Update: the results of the contest are published361 now.


Footnotes Link

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  7. 7 #inspiration
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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 front-end/UX workshops, webinars and loves solving complex UX, front-end and performance problems in large companies. Get in touch.

  1. 1

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

  2. 2

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

  3. 3

    Sounds awesome!

    I will begin scouring the San Diego area….

  4. 5

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

  5. 6

    Edwin Ortega Bu

    August 16, 2010 8:14 am

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

  6. 7

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

  7. 8

    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)

  8. 9

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

  9. 10

    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.

  10. 11

    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)…

  11. 12

    Chris Schneider

    August 16, 2010 10:12 am

    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

    Richard Darell

    August 16, 2010 12:28 pm

    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

      Sven Lennartz

      August 16, 2010 10:41 pm

      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

  20. 29


  21. 30

    Srinivas Tamada

    August 16, 2010 9:14 pm

    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

    Mukesh Dewatwal

    August 17, 2010 1:15 am

    So Interesting,——I like photography.

  30. 44

    Callum Chapman

    August 17, 2010 1:49 am

    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

      Vitaly Friedman

      August 17, 2010 2:56 am

      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

      Vitaly Friedman

      August 17, 2010 2:58 am

      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

      Vitaly Friedman

      August 17, 2010 11:52 am

      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

        Vitaly Friedman

        August 17, 2010 11:40 am

        @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

    Bratu Sebastian

    August 17, 2010 4:43 am

    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

        Vitaly Friedman

        August 17, 2010 11:53 am

        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

      Vitaly Friedman

      August 17, 2010 11:41 am

      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

      Vitaly Friedman

      August 17, 2010 11:39 am

      :-) 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

      Vitaly Friedman

      August 17, 2010 9:59 pm

      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!!!

  51. 83

    Signage is one of my favourite <3!

  52. 84

    Abhishek Prasad

    August 17, 2010 10:21 pm

    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…

  53. 85

    Jeremiah selengia

    August 17, 2010 11:57 pm

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

  54. 86

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

    Good Luck all :)

  55. 87

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

    • 88

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

  56. 89

    Wow:) Awesome contest .I will try. Thanks

  57. 90

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

  58. 91

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

  59. 93

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

  60. 95

    Thanks Vitaly for adjusting the selection rules :)

  61. 96

    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!

  62. 97

    Love these kind of contests. Thx, SM

  63. 98

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

    • 99

      Vitaly Friedman

      August 22, 2010 1:23 pm

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

  64. 100

    time to crank up my camera ;)

  65. 101

    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?

    • 102

      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.

  66. 104

    hoping i will win a camera…

  67. 105

    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.

  68. 106

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

  69. 108

    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!

  70. 109

    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?

  71. 111

    I just sent mine :)

  72. 112

    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.

    • 113

      Vitaly Friedman

      August 24, 2010 10:34 pm

      Yes, and we don’t need EXIF data.

      • 114

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

        • 115

          Vitaly Friedman

          August 25, 2010 6:06 am

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

          • 116

            Do I need to leave the meaningful-photo-title.jpg in the zip folder when submitting?

  73. 117

    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

  74. 119

    Hi! Is it ok if I crop my photo?

  75. 121

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

  76. 122

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

  77. 124

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

  78. 126

    Does anyone have suggestions on how to write the license?

    • 127

      Vitaly Friedman

      August 27, 2010 5:07 pm

      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.

  79. 128

    Rocky Gonzales

    August 26, 2010 9:43 am

    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.


  80. 129

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

    • 130

      Vitaly Friedman

      August 27, 2010 5:08 pm

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

  81. 131

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

  82. 132


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


  83. 135

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

  84. 136

    Campbell Martin

    August 27, 2010 8:41 am

    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.


  85. 137

    Ankita Asthana

    August 27, 2010 11:58 am

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

  86. 138

    Vitaly Friedman

    August 28, 2010 12:44 am

    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.

    • 139

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

      • 140

        Vitaly Friedman

        September 8, 2010 7:30 am

        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.

  87. 141

    Keeping my fingers crossed !!!

  88. 142

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

  89. 143

    Excited to see those shots… :-)

    I hope the winners are deserving… :-)

  90. 144

    aloysius alphonsus

    September 1, 2010 9:48 pm

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

  91. 145

    When do winners list launch?

  92. 147

    I also want to know. Mr Vitaly Friedman!

  93. 148

    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.

    • 149

      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!

  94. 150

    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!


  95. 151

    when will the results be out? :)

    • 152

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

      • 153

        Vitaly Friedman

        September 8, 2010 7:32 am

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

      • 154

        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

  96. 155

    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!

  97. 161

    btw. its next week now. :)

  98. 162

    It’s already next week now. Where?

  99. 163

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

  100. 165

    Vitaly Friedman

    September 15, 2010 10:01 am

    The post will be published tomorrow. Please stay tuned.

  101. 166

    Tomorrow is today :) !

  102. 167

    I love the sign for the fifth floor with the five fingers illustration. But what does the sixth floor have?

    • 168

      where (email address) should i send my photo folder??

      Please tell me


  103. 169

    Hi Vitaly
    I have read the rules etc. but im not sure where i need to upload the the zip folder. pl share URL.

  104. 170

    These signs send mixed messages!

  105. 171

    Good fun comp, my photo even got a run cheers keep up the good work. Stoneydesert


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