Have you ever driven past a billboard for an insurance company?
You know the one. A headline set in comic sans about protecting you for the things you care about. A badge-like logo. A photo of two aging guys in suits, smiling grimly, over-layed with a stock photo of a typical family, or summertime activity. Boating. Baseball. Fishing. Family time.
While vacationing in Florida I saw a really “nice” insurance billboard. I was amazed at how professional and vibrant the photo of the surfer in the background was, and how well the two guys in suits really stood out. (I know, only a designer would notice that stuff.)
Yet immediately after driving past, I didn’t know what the billboard said specifically, or why this company was different. Come to think of it, it may have been for a law practice after all.
The problem with these billboards in the past wasn’t only that their photos were goofy. It was a lack of differentiation, messaging, and reliance on an over-used concept that rendered them billboards as “visual noise” along the highway.
As digital cameras, software, and even just having an iPad makes it easy for just about anyone to design, advertising may be getting better looking, but unfortunately, no less cliché.
So a word to aspiring designers: as you’ve upgraded to better design tools, take a moment to improve your messaging. Be different. Keep the concept simple. Keep the imagery simple. Use as few words as possible for those highway drivers. And be sure it’s easy to read.
Because in the end, design tools are still just tools.