Billboard Design for Dummies

How to design a billboard.

It’s a beautiful, sunny day in Atlanta and you’re breezing down 75 South into the city. There’s not a cloud in the sky, traffic is surprisingly sparse–heck, you might even cruise with the windows down for a bit. In short, it’s a perfect day on the roads.

Riding down the highway, you notice the billboards lining the roads in neat rows leading on for miles. In this procession of outdoor advertisements, which billboards stick out to you? What makes a billboard design memorable versus monotonous?

This is one question that we get all the time at Effortless Outdoor Media. And I mean all. the. Time. And the truth is, billboard design isn’t rocket science; however, there is a formula to crafting a successful billboard ad. Yet, even household name brands continuously fail to create billboards that cut through the clutter. To industry veterans like us this is simply dumbfounding and silly.

But don’t you worry! By following a simple list of “dos & don’ts” of billboard design, you can easily make outdoor advertising magic. Ultimately, it all comes down to clever and creative artwork, copy, and clear messaging.

Be Smart With Your Artwork

There’s no other way to put it: artwork is the most important part of your billboard design. Whoever coined the phrase “a picture is worth 1,000 words” must have had billboards in mind when they spoke. When your target audience takes in your outdoor advertisement at 50+ mph, smart art is the surefire way to get their attention.
In general, the questions you need to ask yourself about your art are as follows:

  • What’s the most important image for this billboard?
  • Does this artwork clearly convey what we do as a company?
  • Is this campaign’s call to action (CTA) clearly conveyed?
  • Do we clearly drive consumer interaction here?Every billboard is different, and certain big name brands with recognition can get away with deviations. But by and large, adhering to these guidelines is a formula for success with your billboard design.

Take the recent “Back Pain Stops Here” billboard by Resurgens Orthopaedics, for example.

When you look at this billboard, your eyes immediately focus on the glowing red spine on the woman’s back. This is exactly what you want. It’s eye-catching, unique, and it’s definitely the most important image on this billboard. Not only does it showcase what Resurgens is promoting (their Spine Center), it also implies what Resurgens does as a company (they’re a medical company that specializes in orthopaedic care). Additionally, the simple URL both drives consumer interaction and acts as the billboard’s CTA. It’s short, sweet, yet visually arresting. And really all it did was follow this simple formula for artwork. Funny how that works, huh?

Additional Art Tips

  1. Never underestimate the power of vibrant, attention-grabbing color schemes. High contrast images and backgrounds are often what grabs someone’s attention. You might have amazing copy and messaging, but if your billboard is drab looking nobody will pay it any mind.
  2. Using extensions that make sense within your artwork can be amazing attention grabbers. Companies like Northwest Exterminating with their big mouse billboards, or Chik-fil-a with all their cow billboards execute these to great effect.

Resurgens_HappyHolidays_Billboard-Gingerbread Man_v3Clever, Concise Copy

Undoubtedly the biggest problem with most billboards is that they’re cluttered with copy. Don’t forget: people can only read so fast when they’re driving. Writing the next War & Peace on your billboard isn’t going to drive business; in fact, it’ll probably hurt it. As any copywriter worth their salt will attest: the simpler, the shorter, the better.

In fact, I’ll let you in on an industry secret: billboard copy should never be more than 7 words long. When you keep billboard copy at 7 words or less, you all but guarantee that people will have ample time to read your message. Once you go past that threshold, however, you experience a significant drop-off.

Plus, the more concise the copy, the “stickier” it is for consumers. If the goal of your outdoor advertising efforts is to drive engagement, you want as little friction as possible with consumers.

So be short, please.

Lastly, when it comes to the size of your copy on the billboard, bigger is better. Just as short copy promotes stickiness, BIG COPY IS EYE-CATCHING. (DO YOU SEE WHAT I DID THERE?) When consumers can’t read your copy, they’ll at best be unable to digest your ad and at worst be annoyed that you made an illegible ad.

So when it comes to billboard copy: BE BIG, BOLD, AND AROUND 7 WORDS.

Crystal Clear Messaging Is A Must

Crafting straightforward and compelling messaging in billboard advertising can be a tough nut to crack. More than almost any other advertising medium, you have to get to the point quickly and cleverly. What’s more, an ad that doesn’t quite know what it wants to say is super noticeable when it’s plastered on a huge billboard off the highway. So it’s kind of important to have these details down pat.

Luckily, if you follow the guidelines for artwork & copy laid out earlier, you’re already in a great place. But then again, it never hurts to get a few more tips & tricks:

  • A great way to differentiate yourself is expressly outlining your unique value propositions (or UVPs). These simple claims are often the stickiest, and they clearly differentiate you from your competition.
  • Make sure that there’s lots of contrast between the color of your copy and the color of your background. Be very, very careful with this. Even colors that seemingly work in real life (e.g. sky blue and white) don’t work on billboards. After spending time and effort to draft up such awesome copy, the last thing you want is for it to literally fade into the background.

Always remember that everything in your billboard advertisement needs to work in concert. Your artwork should influence your copy; your copy must direct your artwork, and both are directly driven by your messaging. If you have them all singing in harmony, you’ll be sure to make an amazing billboard advertisement. But if they stumble even a bit, your next billboard could be as useless as trying to inflate a flat tire with your lips.

Now: Let’s Design Some Billboards!

For the best billboard and outdoor advertisement prices, placement and service contact us now at [email protected]/ . We will respond within 24 hours or less.