Design Guidelines


The most important principle for creating effective outdoor content is the layout of the items on the board. Consumers can’t understand or see five messages at once. People read in chunks of information so put each thing you want your customers to see in order of importance. People scan left to right, then down. The more distinct those sections of information are, the faster people understand the meaning. Information that overlaps causes the reader to have to pause and sort the two apart before understanding the message. Some businesses worry they will not be able to get all of their information on one ad, so they add every possible detail they can. This is a mistake. The customer doesn’t have time to process large chunks of information while driving. Use these levels as guidelines to first capture the viewer’s attention with a single point of communication.

  • Level X: A photo, logo, service, product image or price – whichever is the most important piece of information
  • Level Y: Supporting information that supports level X
  • Level Z: Relevant information that tells the customer where, how or who to contact for the information in levels X and Y


Select easy-to-read typefaces. Large, bold fonts make it easier for your audience to read and comprehend. Using text with all capital letters is harder to read. Use text with upper and lower case letters when you have a long message. Distance: Understanding a billboard design depends not only on the style of lettering and colors used, but also upon how these elements work together at a distance. Distance is a variable, which must be considered because the audience is in motion. The letter size is critical.Headlines: A headline must be legible at any reasonable distance from close by to at least 400 feet.

  • A letter height of 20 inches is recommended.
  • No letters should be less than 12 inches in height if we are to communicate a message effectively at a distance.


Take full advantage of your billboard’s color capacity by using rich, vibrant colors. Bright, saturated colors (with no white in them) work better than pastels and low contrast colors. Color weighs heavily on the success of a campaign. Research demonstrates that high color contrast can improve advertising recall by 38%. Choose colors with high contrast in both hue and value. Contrasting colors are easy to see from great distances, while colors with little color difference will blend together and make the message harder to read. In the picture above your contrasting colors are opposite each other.

Color and Emotion

Also, certain colors tend to evoke specific emotions or ideas, so choose them carefully to help support products and ideas.

  1. BLACK- Sophistication, Power, Evil, Death and Mystery
  2. Grey- Stability, Strength of Character, Security, Authority and Security
  3. Purple- Royalty, Passion, Wisdom, Luxury, Vision and Magic
  4. Yellow- Joy, Cheerfulness, Happiness, Energy, Caution and Cowardice
  5. White- Freshness, Hope, Goodness, Light, Purity, Simplicity, Cleanliness and Coolness
  6. Pink- Romance, Compassion, Faithfulness, Beauty, Love, Friendship and Sensitivity
  7. Red- Danger, Romance, Daring, Passion, Excitement, Style, Excitement  and Urgency
  8. Blue- Peace, Stability, Calmness, Confidence, Tranquility, Sincerity, Affection and Integrity
  9. Green- Life, Growth, Environment, Healing, Money, Safety, Relaxation and Freshness

Color Contrast

The 14 color combinations for lettering above were tested using only primary and secondary color of full hue and value. Tests for readability at a distance were conducted on different groups under the sponsorship of the Outdoor Advertising Association of America (OAAA). The results ranked in the sequence shown, with #1 being the most legible and #14 as the least legible. Letters as a “Negative”, 3, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12 and 14 appear to have a wider stroke than the others.

Visual Impact

Avoid White BackgroundsWith LED technology and the use of emitted light, white or very light colors may repel the eye — not the desired response in advertising. Even though Patten Digital Advertising’s digital billboards are fully capable of producing white and pastel colors, it is not recommended. If white or pastels must be used, the content should only be scheduled for daytime viewing.Black BackgroundsFor digital billboards, black is the absence of color. Black is created with the use of less light. Using a black or dark background will inevitably increase contrast, therefore strengthening legibility and improve the impact of your advertisement. If using black, make sure the values are R:0, G:0 and B:0