Designing a billboard to create impact – 3 simple rules

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When is comes to creating a billboard design there are many guides out there on how to ‘create impact’ or ‘stand out from the crowd’, not many of these really get to the nitty gritty of what you need to do in order to create IMPACT
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When is comes to creating a billboard design there are many guides out there on how to ‘create impact’ or ‘stand out from the crowd’, not many of these really get to the nitty gritty of what you need to do in order to create IMPACT

We have been designing effective billboards for years now and we know what works (as well as what doesn’t). The common mistake most virgin billboard designers suffer from is, big space to fill so fill it – wrong. Remember in most cases you only have a few seconds to grab the attention of the passer by, within those seconds you need to have established a connection, either with the customers ‘want it’ or ‘what was that’ brain functions!

If you can achieve either of those two then your onto a winner – think of it like brain tease, what will they remember from seeing your ad, what do you WANT them to remember?

Follow these simple rules when creating your next billboard design and hopefully you’ll have people talking.

  1. Less is more
    There is a tendency in us all to want to fill a space. It’s common in pretty much everything we do, from our homes to our garages and sheds – if there a space we must fill it with something! The same can be said when our clients are given a massive 3m x 6m blank adverting board – fill it with all the things I want to say about my company or product. This doesn’t work in the world of billboard advertising; in fact it’s quite the opposite. The best way to look at this is: If you only had 3 seconds to tell people what you do, what would you say? Hard isn’t it. Now try applying this to your design, even harder.

Think what is really important and what you really want to say with your billboard design – do you have a sale, a special offer, an event or launch of a new service? Try to pick on something you know your audience will respond too, something that will make them go – ‘right I get it’. A good example of this is a recent advert we did for a local company selling spares for robotic industrial machines, not your run of the mill advertiser on a billboard – however those knowing the brand would easily understand the billboard and what they do – simple and clean with a call to action you can’t fail to miss.

CNC Spares billboard

  1. Image / Type
    If you can and you have access to good images try to use one, most people process a image faster than they do text. If you don’t have good images don’t use one, this can cause you more damage in the long run and potentially put people off. Try to think about what the image is saying about your product /service/event – if it has little or no relevance, again don’t use it. Try to think about using text and colour instead, there are some excellent examples on the web of how to use colour and type together to create impact, see: for a few guides on colour and fonts.

If you do have an image or can get access to them make sure that you have the rights to use that image either from the owner/brand/photo library, failure to obtain this could see you in hot water or worst, a fine. Remember your billboard will be on display for all to see, 24/7 so make sure you have the rights to use it.

Try to say away from images that are too dark as billboard print doesn’t handle heavy saturation of dark colours, mainly solid blacks, deep blues etc… the weight of the ink can sometimes cause the billboards to peel when wet or flake in summer months. The below is a good example of full colour with image and text that uses full colour without being too dark.

 Morning Foods Billboard

  1. Be memorable
    Billboard advertisements should be designed to attract attention quickly, and create a lasting impression. The more memorable the better. Research shows that billboard advertising has one of the highest retention rates available, at well over 70%, far higher than radio, newspaper, cinema or online.

Think about using a bold, high-impact or even shocking image – as long as it’s remembered. Ask the user a question, or make a bold surprising statement, or make an offer that makes them think ‘Wow!’ Anything to leave people pondering after they have passed the advertisement.

Below is an example of a billboard we used a few years ago on a site that wasn’t performing too well, we couldn’t work out why as it was on a major road, had dwelling traffic and the board had been there for years! We tried a couple of standard ‘Advertise Here’ posters but to no avail – so we thought, lets be memorable – we did just that!

A week later we’d sold the space on the billboard for the remaining 9 months of that year, and bookings reserved into the following year! Needless to say we did receive a few complaints but we never said what the kitten ‘would get’ it just implied something else – no kittens were harmed (or course) but it certainly worked.

Kitten advertise here poster

So next time you’re thinking about your billboard design try to follow the simple rules above, you might be surprised the results it might get (or complaints!)

Book your billboard today.
Book your billboard today.

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