Advertisers and their advertising agencies and in-house designers are finding out that creating effective ads for digital electronic outdoor billboards is a whole other thing.
The traditional rules that apply to standard print-on-vinyl outdoor billboards don’t work so well with the world of high-contrast, light and angle sensitive LED signs. Meanwhile, as the number of available digital billboards increases, those responsible for developing the creative and the production art for these signs need some serious training to get with the digital program.
What Makes It Work
In the same way print design differs from design for online advertising, design for a digital canvas requires that you consider the technology and the environment surrounding the billboard.
The long-held rule for traditional outdoor— 7 seconds, 7 words— still should be a guiding philosophy when creating for digital outdoor. Moreover, unlike a printed billboard that doesn’t move unless you’re moving, the message changes every 6-10 seconds.
White backgrounds bad. Dark backgrounds good.
Avoid white backgrounds. For these new digital boards, even the best of them, it’s all about contrast. Not only does it take more electricity to power a light diode to glow white, using a lot of white reveals imperfections in your art and malfunctioning lights. A solid black background is a perfect color palette to make deeply saturated colors pop.
Keep the artwork simple, but use the full power of color that is available with these signs.
The mark of an amateur is using too many typestyles or just picking bad type overall. There are some good free type fonts available on the Internet, but there are many more really bad ones.
The mark of an amateur is using too many typestyles.
Like their vinyl counterparts, digital billboards are seen from a distance and usually from a moving vehicle. The same consideration you would give traditional outdoor should be used to design art for digital. Keep it simple and readable.
Choose type fonts are are easy to read. The king of all legible fonts is the Helvetica family of faces. This classic European designed font has rules the design world for nearly 50 years. There is a reason it remains a top choice for professional designers.
Set your type in using upper and lowercase letters. All caps is difficult to read, especially at a distance.
The Real Power of Digital Outdoor
Beyond the coolness factor and improving readability of jumbo LED signs, lies the most impressive feature of all: the ability to create entire campaigns in a single location.
Day-parting has always been an advantage of electronic media like radio and television. You can schedule specific kinds of messages in specific parts of the day. Hearing an ice cream commercial on radio at 6:30am won’t be as effective as a commercial that describes a hot, flavored, fresh-brewed cup of coffee.
You can place specific artwork to be visible at specific times or days.