Yes it’s another rant about poor design in the media. Much like my beef with movie poster design, another one of the glaring eyesores on the design community is that of poor billboard design and their lack of creativity. I generally don’t like billboards anyways as they are more signs of consumerism in our society that pollute scenic views. If you go to Europe, you’ll find very few large signs. Most advertising there is just small signs above the businesses with no commercial billboards cluttering up the roadsides like here in the states. So if it’s blocking my view of the tree-line, you’d hope that it would at least be an attractive design. Not only are they usually hideous, they’re often unreadable especially at 75mph with a semi truck hauling rusty propane canisters in front of me.

Below are a few examples of some typical billboard ads. Notice the small text, poor font usage, no rhythm or reason to it’s layout. Much like web surfers who have notoriously short attention spans you need to grab a drivers attention the same way with clean precise text that gets your message across in seconds. Keep in mind that they’re talking on the cell phone, eating, putting on makeup or balancing their checkbook at the same time. You have to make that initial impression so memorable that your company names remains in their brain…even if they don’t remember the phone number you plastered on the layout or the web address just getting that brand recognition is critical so that they might look you up later. A common problem is that a designer will just simply blow up their yellowpage ad to 500% and feel that’s good enough. Well it might work in the yellow pages (that’s a whole other topic) but on a larger scale format it’s not the same way of viewing. The reader is certainly not up that close and if they were it’s probably because they hit it with the car trying to read it. “If you can read this then you’re too close”

Let’s have a look at some poor implementations…


Come to Lavender Court..where you too can push old people on swings. Yup that’s about sums it up. Can’t really read the amenities and is that text “Elegant Living” or “Elephant Lying?” Not a good font choice for readability when you’re going down the highway. How about saying 6 homes starting at $664,000 for a bold headline, if that’s their major selling point make that standout along with maybe 3 of the most critical amenities. Those logos along the bottom serve no purpose along with the tiny photos of the interior.

 

 


Never use tiny photos of the things you’re trying to sell on a billboard. Make those images stand out and make that text work with it. This is so dull you could swap it out for a funeral home and no one would know the difference. “All our coffins must go! We’re clearing out the old dead to make room for the new!” This is a British billboard by the way, but is everything there really this dull?

 

 


But font sizes don’t matter. It’s not just that that the small text is so unreadable, it’s that the whole design is so dull. Remember you can still get your information across and provide it in an attractive manner instead of beating your design with an ugly stick. Try some strong font combination and colors that make your brand apparent. That poor quality photo of their entrance-way probably serves the purpose of you recognizing it quickly but I sure don’t get any warm fuzzies about going there and the ad certainly won’t stand out visually. If I’m bleeding and driving I’d definitely miss this sign and probably just pass out near a Taco Bell.

 

 


Whose billboard is it anyways? These guys really are hilarious on TV but on this billboard it makes them look like suspects in an Amber Alert. Difficult to read text that’s kerned way out of control, poor font usage and the obligatory star burst. Yes it’s blue and yellow text on a red starburst (eyes still burning), that goes out to you color blind folk out there. By far the worse example I found.

Now finally here’s some great billboard designs. you’ll notice some consistent themes of large imagery that strengthens branding, clear text that’s concise but more importantly it’s eye catching, and often times clever in what it says or how it’s visually presented. Simple, creative, effective. That’s what billboard advertising should be.

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