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.

1. Maximize viewing time

3-6 seconds.

That’s how long someone will have to see your billboard when traveling at an average spedd of 55 mph.

That’s why it’s important your bilboard design communicates your message simply and effectively so people can have the maximum amount of viewing time.

Simplicity is key.

If a billboard is cluttered with too much information, it will be too hard to read and viewer’s won’t be able to absorb the message over time.

Instead, they’ll ignore the billboard.

2. Use a legible font size

Ask yourself, is the text 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?

More effective billboard designs typically use sturdy letters with even spacing. Lettering that is too tightly spaced will be ahrder to read and can result in confusion.

If you’re not sure, if the billboard design is readable from varying distances, use the text legibility guide.

Outdoor text legibility guide

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

LL Johnson Distributing Logo Conversion

3. 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, use less text and larger fonts to increase effectiveness.

In contrast, if the billboard is close to traffic, you can use more text 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 traffic moves slowly, located near secondary roads, and/or near an intersection, the message can be longer than if located on a freeway.

4. Design for maximum visibility

Design for location and environment

No mater what type of outdoor advertising you’ll be designening for, make sure it’s readable from various distances, angles, lighting and weather conditions? If possible, the billboard design should be specific to the location it’s being displayed. If not, then design it for the worse case scenario — the bilboard with the poorest visibility.

Keep the message and the design simple

It’s generally recommended to limit billboard headlines to no more than 7 words. In realty, the entire biilboard design should use no more than seven elements.

Limit the message to only ONE key benefit. If you try to say too many things, nothing else will be read and may endanger the most important message. Do not stack words or sentences on top of each other. This reduces the ability to read and understand the message.

Less is more.

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

5. Use contrasting colors and images

To maximize visibility, use colors and pictures that contrast with the sky and other surroundings. On a typical billboard, avoid using White or Sky Blue backgrounds as they will blend with the sky surrounding the billboard.

To make sure the text has good contrast in color with the billboard background, use a Pantone Matching System (PMS). For example, color combination’s that work good are Blue and Yellow or Red and Black. Whereas, color combinations such as Purple and Yellow or Red and Green vibrate at a high frequency and aren’t as effective.

If the billboard contains an image or photograph, make sure it attracts the eye and separates from the background.

Use colors to communicate emotion

One of the most important considerations in the creation of an outdoor design revolves around the effective use of color becasue 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

6. Use photos to attract attention

No matter what billboard size you’re designing for, using a photo along with a headline is a good start as the photo attracts the eye and leads the viewer to the headline. Also, the photo can have lasting impact (e.g. Chick-fil-A cows). Dogs and other animals can be very effective.

7. 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. For example, a standard 14′ x 48′ billboard with a three foot extension is now 17′ x 48′. Further, extending an image beyond the board can be eye-catching, seen better from a distance, and more 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.

Please post your thoughts and comments below. Thanks!