Graphic Ideas for Billboard Design
Great billboard artwork is a combination of simple concepts steeped in decades of research. If you can follow some basic, time-proven steps, the result will be a billboard that is attractive and effective.
Keep It Simple
When it comes to billboards, less words work better than more. Think about it; you can’t grasp more than a few words while reading and driving. Furthermore, the size of the words is important so the fewer the words, the larger the type and the better the visibility. To make this happen, you have to distill the message down to its simplest form. This is one of your key challenges in creating a memorable message – getting to the point in the fewest possible words?
There are a lot of typestyles out there – and most of them should never be used on a billboard. The text you use should be easy to read. Those include simple styles such as times roman and universe. Always use styles that have very bold, thick strokes – they are easier to read at far distances. Most of the highly stylized typestyles that are popular in print advertising are completely inappropriate in billboards, although many graphic designers refuse to acknowledge this. If the viewer can’t read your copy, what is the point of the billboard?
Quite some time ago the Outdoor Advertising Association of America, published their findings of exhaustive research into what color combinations are the most legible on a billboard. The best colors, in order of success, more maximum contrast are:
- 1) black on yellow
- 2) black on white
- 3) yellow on black
- 4) white on black
- 5) blue on white
- 6) white on blue
- 7) white on green
- 8) green on white
- 9) red on white
- 10) white on red
When the words and background on a billboard have little contrast, it can be much more difficult to read resulting in a weaker message and less-than-desirable results.
Graphic Must Convey
If you are going to put a picture in the ad (and you probably should) make sure that it compliments and helps tell the story. For example, a restaurant might want to show a plate of appetizing food as the graphic – not a leprechaun looking at a four leaf clover. The graphic should help sell the product or service, and make the ad memorable enough that you can remember the name of the company (such as the gecho for Geico).
Test and Re-test
Once you have a design that meets these criteria, you have to test it on some sample consumers to see if it works. These may be, in the simplest form, some of your co-workers. Tape the finished artwork to a distant wall, and then have the guinea pig walk toward the wall and tell you when they can see it clearly and what it means (try as best as you can to replicate the distance and size that the billboard will be seen). Be sure to use color artwork, so you don’t cheat with the simple, high-contrast black and white version. A winning piece of art will have good visibility at a distance so far that most of the copy is illegible – yet just the headline grabs the viewer’s attention and makes them want to read the balance of the ad.
There is no magic to producing great billboard ad copy. In fact, when you get away from the simple, time-proven roots of great copy is when you fail in your mission. You may be tempted to stray from these logical benchmarks to create “breakthrough” advertising – but instead all you will create is an embarrassment. Due to the difficulty in reading an ad at 55 mph from 1,000’, a lot of the creative things that work in print ads just don’t apply here.
So if you want to be known for having happy customers with ads that really sell, you need to stick to the points outlined above.