Living in Chicago and dealing with Chicago traffic, I’ve had plenty of time to study billboards. Plenty. This is the conclusion I’ve come to: Most billboards stink, even ones created by global companies with the marketing resources to do it right.
Billboard design issues that crop up over and over include:
- Unreadable fonts — Unreadable at a dead stop, let alone flying down the expressway at 70 mph.
- Horrible color contrast — Making the message even harder to absorb.
- Microscopic branding — Nice imagery, but what’s the name of the company?
- Inscrutable message — Nice imagery, but what am I looking at?
- Too much information — Just because most drivers speed does not mean they are speed-readers.
If you want your billboard to accomplish something — expand brand awareness, generate an inquiry, bring in new foot traffic, etc. — following best practices for billboard design will set you on the road to success.
Helpful Resources for Billboard Design
To help with your billboard design project, I put together this list of resources that seems especially helpful.
- How To Write a Billboard (or, Copywriting at 70 MPH). This detailed article is 10 years old, but 90 percent of the billboards still ignore 90 percent of the author’s advice.
- 9 Tips When Designing a Billboard. Here is a good, high-level recap of billboard design best practices. There aren’t that many things to remember, but it’s important to remember all of them.
- Good vs. Bad Outdoor Design. This article has instructive photos that illustrate the billboard design tips it covers. The images make the points quite well.
- Billboard Design Tips. This article concentrates on color and contrast — key issues!
- Fonts and Billboard Design. Here’s a simple, practical guide to selecting billboard fonts, with a few excellent specific recommendations.
- The Effect of Font Size on Readability. How big should your billboard font be if you want it legible at 360 feet? 480 feet? Not sure? Read this article, and you will be!
- 9 Billboard Design FAILS. I included this one because it has very instructive photos, but also because it’s pretty darn funny.
Hopefully these resources will put your billboard design in high gear.