I took my first Kodak Photo Spot (wiki) pictures at my spring break trip to the Disney World in the mid-1990s, and through all these years I’ve never stopped admiring their genius. It’s a marketing idea whose elegance has rarely been emulated. I love how organically spreadable the signs were, how they subtly nudged you to spend another scarce frame of film, and how they made people’s lives a little bit better by giving their memories just the right composition.
Of course, today the Kodak Picture Spot is something that could probably be built straight into the digital camera wired to recognize the subject and to statistically analyze thousands of photos taken from the same spot to recommend the optimal composition and camera settings.
“As photography became more engrossed in American culture in the early 20th century, The Eastman Kodak Company began to look for new ways to advertise photography and its cameras. With the rise of the automobile industry and the development of American highways, the company began a campaign called “Kodak Scenic Spots.” Starting in 1920, Kodak began to place signs throughout American highways that advertised both their name and the practice of photography by marking interesting and beautiful scenery. Initially, these signs appeared on the roads outside of Kodak’s hometown of Rochester, NY in order to test the effectiveness of the idea. Within a year, they began sending members of their advertising department across the country to select the most scenic views to be awarded signs. By 1939, Kodak had placed 6,000 scenic spot signs across the
exact phrases used in these signs changed over time. When the company began the campaign, the signs read: “Picture Ahead! Kodak as you go.” Eventually, the use of the work “Kodak” as a verb was stopped and the signs were changed to read: “Kodak Scenic Spot.” After the initial campaign ended in 1939, Kodak continued to place these signs sporadically in theme parks and tourist locations until the late 1980s. These signs also carried a new label, which read: “Kodak Picture Moment.”
Map of Kodak Picture Spots at Magic Kingdom (source)