How to increase outdoor advertising visibility and readability by following these seven important design tips.

Before starting any outdoor advertising design project, it’s important to understand that readabilty is the primary goal to making sure a billboard can be read quickly and from a distance. Here are seven crucial tips to help make your next billboard a success.

Viewing Time

An important question to ask is does your message communicate simply and effectively within 6-10 seconds? That’s how long your viewer will have an opportunity to see your ad. Remember, if your ad is on a highway, cars are traveling at an average of 55 mph or more.

Contrary to many opinions, if the ad is cluttered with too much info, the viewer won’t absorb this info gradually over time (more with each viewing). Instead, they’ll ignore the ad altogether as it’s too hard to read. It’s generally recommended to use no more than 7 words.

Simplicity is key.

Use a legible font size

Notice whether the copy lines are instantly readable at 300 feet for posters and 500 feet for bulletins.

Do the fonts have thick or thin lines, or a combination of the two?

Better creative typically has sturdy letters with even spacing. Make sure the text doesn’t crowd the letters together, resulting in confusion.

Outdoor Text Legibility Guide

Recommended text (character) heights to be used for readability at specific distances.

LL Johnson Distributing Logo Conversion

Spacing Considerations

The eye typically moves from the upper left corner to the lower right corner of a billboard. Consider this when creating your artwork, including how the images and text are juxtaposed.

Have you considered where the billboard is located? Is it far from the traffic or close? If far, you must use less copy and larger fonts to increase effectiveness. In contrast, if close, you can use more copy and a smaller font to create the same effect.

Have you considered the speed of traffic and placement of intersections near the board? If the speed is slow, located near secondary roads, and/or near an intersection, the message can be longer than if located on a high speed freeway.

Create Maximum Visibility

Does the message create maximum visibility? Use colors and pictures to contrast with the sky and other surroundings. On a typical board, try not to use white or sky blue backgrounds as they blend with the sky around them.

Is the ad readable from various distances, angles, lighting and weather conditions? Your creative design should be specific to the board if possible or if not then designed for the poorest visibility board in the showing.

Are you saying only one simple key statement? Nothing else will be read and may endanger the more important messages. Do not put words or sentences stacked on top of each other. This reduces the ability to understand and view the message.

Less is more.

Does your ad have a sufficient amount of space between the actual lines and words? If the letters or words run together it won’t be read.

To help assess readability of your artwork from different distance, our handy Outdoor Bulletin Distance vs. Scale Viewer is displayed below.

Oakdale Pizza Logo Conversion

Use Contrasting Colors

Is the text contrasting in color with the background? Use a PMS or other color system. If you have an image, make sure it attracts the eye separate from the background and the copy.

Do the background colors contrast with surroundings? (e.g. sky, buildings, backdrop of board). Are the colors used primary and secondary in nature? For example, color combination’s that work are blue and yellow or red and black. Whereas, colors such as purple and yellow, or red and green vibrate together at too high a frequency and do not tend to be as effective.

Colors as Emotions

One of the most important considerations in the creation of an outdoor design revolves around the effective use of color. Color can convey emotions. For example, consider the feelings associated with various colors:

ColorEmotions Evoked
RedStimulation, exciting, provocative, dynamic
Red OrangeDomination, aggression, and action
OrangeFriendly, vital, playful, energizing, inviting
Yellow OrangeIllumination, wisdom, and wealth
YellowSunny, warming, cheerful
Yellow GreenSickness, cowardice, discord, and jealousy
GreenSoothing, nature, refreshing, healing, fresh
Blue GreenEmotional healing and protection
BlueCool, quiet, serene, constant
Blue VioletUniqueness, preciousness, royalty, and sacredness
VioletCreative, regal, spiritual, mysterious
Red VioletEnergetic, happy, sweet, romantic, youthful
BlackStrong, classic, elegant, mysterious

Attractive Ads

Using an image along with a headline is a good start as the image attracts the eye and then the headline gets read. Also, the image can have lasting impact (e.g. Chick-fil-A cows). Dogs and other animals can be very effective.

Consider using extensions

Extensions on billboards help make your message stand out. Most billboards in a given area will be a standard size so if you can extend your board higher it will be more noticeable (e.g. From a 14′ x 48′ to a 17′ x 48′). Further, extending an image beyond the board can be very eye-catching and memorable.

If you found this information helpful, don’t miss the Ultimate Collection of Outdoor Billboard Sizes listing the Trim, Live Area, and Mechanical specifications for over 70 outdoor billboards, posters, bulletins, and Digital billboard displays.