Outdoor advertising — a driving force

There is a stretch of interstate that I always look forward to on the drive to my sister’s house. She lives in suburban Chicago. The trek is usually a pain because of road construction and toll booths.

(Man, I’ve really got to get an Easy-Pass.) If you are thinking pastoral beauty or breathtaking downtown views, think again. Only a fellow design geek would enjoy this stretch of road. So what’s the attraction you ask? The simple answer­ is billboards; mile after mile of glorious innovative billboards. Yes, I know what you are thinking — get a life. But if my options are gazing at orange barrels or billboards: I choose billboards.

Billboards present some unique challenges for designers. Even though the basic principles of good design apply, there are a few additional points to consider before setting out to create an outdoor billboard.

  • Billboards are generally comprised of three basic elements: art, headline and logo.
  • The headline should be no more than 10 words, shorter if possible.
  • Large visuals get attention.
  • Think minimalism. Make sure your visual is spot on.
  • Use bold colors.
  • Make sure there is unity in your design. Your type, visuals and color work together harmoniously.
  • Make one point. Don’t try to communicate complex or multiple thoughts. Your art, headline and design must get the point across in a matter of seconds.
  • Use type judiciously. Readability is your No. 1 concern.
  • The logo must play a major role. Billboards are a media where emphasizing the logo is very important. As much as we hate it when the clients says, “Make the logo bigger,” this is an instance where we should.

So next time you find yourself on a road trip pay little extra attention to the outdoor advertising. Maybe think of them as studies of simplicity.