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The A-B-C’s of Effective Billboard Design

You’ve got a special program or event you want to promote with a billboard which is a great way to get attention.  But unlike  print or web advertising where there is opportunity to tell a story or message billboards, although always seen are only viewed for seconds.  Therefore the longer and more drawn out your message is the less likely it is to be understood.  Consider these A-B-C’s of billboard design before getting started.

A) Define Your Audience Clearly

Don’t try and be everything to everyone with your billboard design. If your trying to reach senior citizens then show it in a photo or mention “seniors” in your headline. You may think well hey I may be able to sell to younger adults as well, but in the end, you will water-down your target and message and fewer people will respond. Better yet to do 3 targeted billboards and find out which one works than make a generic billboard that everyone ignores.

B)KISS (no we’re not making a pass)

Keep It Simple, Sherlock! This means your billboard message can be bold but it should be basic. We come across way too many billboards where clients feel like they need to fill up every square foot of space with words or graphics. Simple billboards get the best results. Just look at what the major brands do when they create a billboard . They don’t foul it up with a lot of detail because they recognize that passers by simply wont remember it all. The goal of your billboard should be one of the following. Get the customer to drive into your store; Get them to visit your website or; Get them to give you a call. Very often loading your billboard up with your store address, your phone and your website address will ensure that nothing is noticed. Choose one of those contact elements and make it big, rather than all three elements small.

Ad-sampleC) Be Bold or Be Forgotten

We all know there is very little left to the imagination these days. Thanks to movies with incredible computer graphics and the internet with just about anything you can think about on YouTube or similar people have seen it all. So for your billboard to stand out you need to make an attempt to be different. If your message is regional then make that your bold statement. “We Love Atlantic City” is much better than “We Love This City.” Placing photos of real people in your market or real places or things that viewers can relate to will be much better than a peice of stock photography that we all know is staged. Think of your target audience and talk to them.

D) Colors and Text.

Use high contrast colors so anything written can be easily read. Black/White, Blue/Gold, Red/Yellow, Green/Tan (you get the picture). If you are placing text over a photo you may want to outline it or drop shadow it to ensure it stand out. When you are working with a designer, ask to see different versions to determine what is best for your graphics and text. Speaking of text, use a font that is big and bold. Forget the flowery fonts unless your billboard is very simple and there are only 2 or 3 words.

E) Photography that Works

We talked a little earlier about the types of photography you should consider, but not about the quality.  Your Visions Outdoor billboard is going to be BIG, so giving us a 3″x5″ photo you copied off the internet simply isn’t going to cut it.  To enlarge a photo 50x its real life size the resolution will have to be good.  This means you should take a good photo yourself (with a decent camera, not a cel phone) or pay a photographer to do it for you.  If you run a business where you by product from a supplier, they may be able to supply you with high resolution targeted photos to use for your billboard.

F) Testing Ideas for your Billboard

Print your billboard idea out on a letter sized peice of paper, then walk 10-20 feet away.  This is what you can expect the typical viewer to see.  Remember the KISS principle?  This test is exactly why we preach this.  Also test your idea with others in your office or friends and family.  If you ask a few people you should get a concensus on whether your design is strong enough to be remembered.

In summary: Come up with a unique design idea that addresses your local customer, keep the message simple and don’t overload your billboard with elements.  This will give you a successful billboard that will drive traffic and get your company and your brand remembered.


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Visions Outdoor, LLC. | Custom Built Portable Billboard Advertising - Innovation at Its Best.


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