billboard 1

Since I am not a professional designer, I am always trying to learn more about slide design, usually through reading books and blogs and talking to presenters.  However, you can learn a lot about slide design from roadside billboards and the mini-billboards you see in places like airports (I am in a lot of airports).  I ran across an article a while ago by BPS Outdoor Media ( It outlined their 10 rules of billboard design.  It was interesting so I wanted to share them, and relate the concepts to slide design.  Here are the first 3 of their rules (the other rules will be discussed in later blogs), with some Refuse to be Boring (RTBB) editorial comments.

Billboard Rule #1 – Effective billboards are short, simple and to the point. Passing motorists are limited to the time they can see your billboard and they can’t safely read very much. They also cannot read small copy (less than one foot tall) when “flying” by the sign.

RTBB – The same is true for slides: simplicity is best and keeping slides easy to read is important. I always refer to the “billboard rule” I first saw in Nancy Duarte’s book Slideology.  She said that your audience should be able to read a slide in 3 seconds or less.

Billboard Rule #2 – All billboard words should be at least 18 inches tall in order to be legible from the road. If your sign is close to the road, please do not ignore this rule, it still applies. Also if your sign is further away (higher than average) from normal, your copy should be bigger than this.

RTBB – I always try to keep fonts no less than 30 points on my slides – actually 28 in my version of PowerPoint.  The words have no value if the audience can’t see them.  Using larger fonts also means you cannot use a lot of text, so the slide is simpler by default.  It also forces you to decide which words are important and which are fillers.

Billboard Rule #3 – All graphics need to be large enough to be seen at fast speeds and far distances; generally make graphics as tall as the billboard (with an exception to directional information).

RTBB – I am a fan of images which cover the entire slide, sometimes called “full bleed” images. These images give a sense of drama, urgency or emotion to your message.  If you are going to use them with some text you will need to find or make some open space on the image to fit your text in.

That’s the first 3 of the 10 Rules for Billboard Design.  I actually get some good ideas on slide design from looking at billboards.  It gives a unique perspective on “what works”. What great billboards are you seeing?

Happy motoring.

Joe Pops


2 Replies to “Learning slide design while you drive! Part 1”

  1. Thanks to John B from Ottawa Canada for spotting a major typo. Good tip – always have someone else look over your visuals before you hit the stage, I didn’t this time.

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