Saturday, February 16, 2013

I Love a Good Billboard

          Back in the days when I was a working graphic designer, slaving over a hot computer, staring at squares and rectangles all day long trying to figure out how to fill them with copy, images, and logos in novel and exciting ways, I used to long to break out of the frame. To bust through even one edge of the bounding box, just for a little change.
          Alas, advertisers do not generally want you to think outside the box. What they want is for you to cram a pixellated photograph of an unidentifiable product, a page and a half of text, and their logo into a one-sixth ad (roughly the size of a business card).
          Invariably, they want the copy set at at least 24 points, even though that will only allow you to get in four words of the copy that absolutely! positively! must all be included in the ad. And the logo? Make it bigger. Never mind that you cannot make it bigger without losing the photo that absolutely! positively! must be included in the ad.*
          So I do love it when designers get to break the picture frame. And when they don't have to fit a novel's worth of copy into a space much smaller than a novel. And when they get keen images to work with. And when nobody screams, "Make the logo bigger!" Because what happens then is brilliance, as the following two billboards attest:

This is the first billboard you see. Notice how the pitcher's body breaks
out of the frame? See what a great action shot it is? Notice how there's
no unnecessary headline or copy to distract you from the exciting image?

This is the billboard you see a couple of blocks later. Not only does the catcher's
head break the frame, but the clever design team has actually ripped the billboard
canvas right down to the frame to make it appear that the pitcher's fastball
tore up the billboard. And still no words. Because everyone here in KC knows
what a Royals uniform looks like. For the story as it appeared in the local
paper, click here.

          I love these billboards. Their idea is so strong that they don't need words. The message is immediate and striking (you should overlook the pun there). They capture the excitement of a good game visually—which is perfectly suited for billboards that you're driving by at highway speed.  The entire design team deserves a large cake with extra frosting for this spectacular effort.

*The first rule you learn in design school is that, even if you make it large enough to be seen from space, you will never be able to make the logo big enough to satisfy the client.

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