Tag Archives: signs

Graphics, Typography, Advertisements. Oh My!

As a graphic design major who favors working with typography, it intrigues me and at the same time pains me to look at all the signs in Africa. Advertisements in Africa are a great example of all things students in the United States are taught not to do. Having inquired about the way signs are designed in Africa, I can tell you that there are no laws or rules people follow. There are no standards that are deemed more acceptable than others and each advertisement is subjected to the creator’s own judgment. My personal struggle is trying to process all or most of the information on any given sign while driving. Frequently signs are loaded with typography. Few have images and most are hand painted, which can add to the complications of reading them.

Landscape drawing by Penny

Penny, a freelance artist in Kampala, told me finding work in Africa as an artist is fairly easy, which contradicted KizAza, a refugee artist who raps. Whether the type of art they do makes a difference in their ability to find work, I do not know. Penny added a sketch in my notebook as we floated down the Nile River and talked about art; it was one of the best parts of the trip for me. We discussed the typography of signs in Africa, which she is accustomed to and found my views on them interesting.


Even in the ways we create our signs, it says a lot about our culture. The USA is much faster paced, people are more direct and there is less acceptance of others. Where in Africa, it took us two hours to drive two miles during rush hour traffic, people spoke in multiple sentences rather than answering in a few words and everyone greeted us and made us feel at home. The first thing on the agenda in Africa when you go to a new place, the host(s) make sure everyone has a chair. On multiple occasions, it took longer for the host(s) to locate a chair for everyone in the group than the time we spent sitting in them. From my experience in America, if you hang out long enough, someone might offer you a chair eventually.

Signs in Africa

I felt slightly flattered yet terrified when  Stanley greeted us at the UNHCR office and caused several nervous laughs when he commented that I should be detained because I was a graphic design major and they needed me there. I honestly, do not know where I would even begin with designing in Africa, with a background in design with rules and guidelines firmly embedded into my thought process. I would have an open table to create how I chose but that can also open up a whole different set of issues. I have to say, I have given some serious thought to the idea of being an artist in Africa before Stanley made his comment…I just don’t believe that it would be the best choice for me.


“Spare Parts” From Friday June 22nd.

Ever since my coca-cola obsession began when I was about 8-years-old I have loved and collected signs. These are all of the signs that I saw that I thought were funny, beautiful, intriguing or inspiring while in Africa that I didn’t get to blog about. I saw them in front of stores, on billboards, as bumper stickers, and on little wood slabs that were held up by posts, which stuck in the ground, etc. I miss them deeply and have been quite bored with my recent drives on Dodge Street and I-80, which seem completely lackluster compared my flowing bus-view of hand painted signs above 4’ by 4’ wood stands, stone buildings and tin-roofed shacks which continually decorated the middle third of my camera frame between blue sky and the foot-pounded red dirt road.

Hopefully someday I will turn these signs into something more than just a list (maybe write or make something). I also hope that the dates and times (my record of which declined the longer that I was in Africa) will help others to visualize the sheer volume and virtual eternity of these quotes and that they themselves will give others a piece of Africa and its spirit. There are some days below that have more quotes than others. This may be because it was one of the days that we were driving further, or it may be because it was our first time in a new area. There were a lot of signs that we saw multiple times, but I never stopped writing them down throughout the trip. In fact, by the end, other students were helping me when they saw a good one. I elected to put them here with out explanation. But I did (for the most part) record locations and descriptions.

Entebbe to Kampala (too dark to see signs)

Kampala to Jinja (6-10, afternoon)

  • “Nile Special. You’ve earned it” 12:40pm.
  • “Make thirst beg for mercy. Be uncontainable” 12:50pm.
  • “Beauty garage. Experience the beauty in you” 12:50pm.
  • “The more you talk to him, the less you consume” 12:52pm.
  • “Shine your continent” 12:52pm.
  • “No smoking. Switch-off engine. Switch off phone” 12:53pm.
  • “Everyone deserves a fortune”
  • “Extra is more”
  • “OH MY GOD”
  • “Tastefully different”
  • “Trust”
  • “Its all about you”

Jinja to Kampala (6-10, evening)

  • “Water is life” 4:30pm.
  • “Give way” 5:15pm.
  • “Your growth is our pride” 5:15pm.
  • “Prosperity is waiting for you” 5:20pm.

Kampala to Entebbe (6-11, morning)

  • “BRAC”
  • “Promises”
  • “Dark and lovely”
  • “Is this a fair fight?”
  • “Consistent. Trusted. Admired”
  • “Don’t say goodbye. We have the world connected”
  • “Together we can”
  • “We care”

Entebbe to Lira (6-11, afternoon)

  • “Equity bank”
  • “In God we trust electronics”
  • “Smart choice for life”
  • “Wishes you a safe journey”
  • “Agape girls”
  • “Good friends photo studio”
  • “Haven away from home”

Farm View Hotel, Lira to Ave Maria Vocational School, Lira (6-12, morning)

Signs like this one where all over the schools that we passed and vistited It became almost immediatly aparent that Africa does have a voice and something to say. The problem, is what gets painted over it? And who is listening?
  • “But fortune. Build Uganda”
  • “Good lifts me up. God is good all the time. All the time God is good”
  • Ave MariaàFarm View Hotel (6-12, evening)
  • “PRIDE”
  • “G-one planet”
  • “Ebeneezer Dairy”
  • “Cha’s. Your body and soul”
  • “Barbie’s Restaurant”
This is the God is good sign. It seems to me that most Africans would do anything to get their message across where others could see it.

Farm View Hotel to Radio WA, Lira (6-13, morning)

  • “Condition permanent”
  • “Comet grocery”
  • “You are welcome”
  • “Drug shop”

Radio WA to Radio WA Tower, Lira (6-13, afternoon)

  • “Say no to gifts for sex”
  • “Greenland executive saloon”
  • “Be innovative to achieve”
  • “Together we go further”
  • “A smart newspaper for smart people”
  • “One family”
  • “Faith project”

Farm View Hotel to Abia (6-14, morning)

  • “J & M goad roasting joint”
  • “God is able”
  • “Diving mercy supermarket”

Farm View Hotel to Get a car for Teresa and Abia (6-15, morning)

  • “Water is life”

Nob View Hotel, Kampala to The Observer Office, Kampala (6-21, afternoon)

  • “Classic pork joint”
  • “I always try new things and nothing holds me down. That’s my break out swag”

The Observer Office to Craft Shop, Kampala (6-21, later afternoon)

  • “Take a closer look. Well beyond ordinary”