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Le Signe, a new International Centre for Graphic Design, has just opened in Chaumont—home of the eponymous annual poster competition... 

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For graphic design lovers, the small town of Chaumont in eastern France is synonymous with the very best in international poster design: it's home to an annual festival and professional and student competitions celebrating the form, and holds a collection of over 5,000 nineteenth-century posters from the golden age of French graphic design. This autumn, it added a new attraction—Le Signe, a new International Centre for Graphic Design dedicated to the celebration, conservation and critique of graphic design in all its forms. It's the first such centre in France, and one of the only institutions in the world to focus solely on graphic design.

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Le Signe is part of a wide-ranging redevelopment of the town's railway-station district, and is housed in a new 3,500 square metre building designed by architects Moatti & Rivière. Adjacent to the former Banque du France building, it encompasses two exhibition halls, a silkscreen-printing workshop, training rooms, a resource centre, coffee shop, and conservation facilities. Amsterdam's Stedelijk Museum have provided the new Centre with its poster storage system to assist with managing the collection, which has grown since the inception of Chaumont's annual festival in 1990 to include more than 50,000 pieces of contemporary graphic design.

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La Collection, the inaugural exhibition at Le Signe, Chaumont. Photograph © Martin Ferrer.

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La Collection, the inaugural exhibition at Le Signe, Chaumont. Photograph © Martin Ferrer.

The new building offers an important opportunity, not only to display and celebrate the Centre's extensive and impressive collection, but also to act as a hub for enquiry, investigation and critique of graphic design. In the future, it will also host graphic design residencies, reaching out with projects in local schools, non-profit organisations and industries. Plans are afoot to offer post-graduate degree programmes and build a research community focusing on both theory and practice. 

Le Signe opened this October with an exhibition of over 300 works from the collection, grouped according to themes including 'Typography', 'Politics', 'Consumer Society' and 'Composition', which is open until 8 January 2017. According to curator Eric Aubert, this is just the first in an extensive programme of planned shows exhibiting both work from the Chaumont collection, and from all fields of graphic design from a range of international sources.

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La Collection, the inaugural exhibition at Le Signe, Chaumont. Photograph © Martin Ferrer.

To celebrate Le Signe's opening, the institution is holding a student competiton, which is open for entries until 26 February 2017. This special edition of their regular 'Students, All to Chaumont' competition, titled Faire Signe/Send a Message, challenges entrants to explore modes of transmission, interpretation and exploration, by creating a new tool that contributes to the transmission of knowledge through graphic design, and allows for a renewed interpretation of the world. The form of that tool is up to you—it could be a card game, a signage system, a video or app, a book, to name but a few suggestions put forward by the organisers. Full details of the brief and how to submit your entry can be found here, and the winners will be exhibited in May 2017, with prizes of up to €1000 up for grabs.

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