Street banners

Street banners: Designs to impress

Planning and designing street banners that will stand out and make people pay attention is not a simple task. Have you ever driven by 20 consecutive banners, all attached to hydro poles, and not known what any of them said? I have!

The truth is that the majority of people who plan and design street banners are more accustomed to designing other things like magazine ads, transit posters, billboards or general branding materials. But designing street banners is as much science as it is art. And mistakes live on for years.

Here are five tips to creating incredible street banners.

  • Keep it super simple. If you believe your message is simple, go back to square one and make it simpler. A slogan sounds great on paper. It might be illegible driving 35 miles per hour. While we’re all striving for more walkable areas, most people’s first impression of a district still comes through the windshield of a car. Banners should be designed to create awareness, not convey complicated messages. A few words, or the name of your area, is sometimes enough.
Simple street banner for East Canton accomplishes its goal of conveying history and awareness.

DO THIS: Simple street banner for East Canton accomplishes its goal of conveying history and awareness.

  • Use large text. Street banners need pronounced and clear written words. Stay away from thin fonts that won’t show up well.
    street banners

    DO THIS: Images by Aaron Oberlin for 10th Street banners use large simple text. Very stylish and extremely clear.

DO THIS: Strong simple message with large, clear text.

DO THIS: Strong simple message in Downtown Raleigh with large, clear text.

  • Avoid  light and blending fonts. That mauve font on a beige banner looks nice when you first see the pdf. It should never appear on your street banners.  The colour of your text should not blend with the background. Sometimes, an appealing colour scheme can work against a banner.
DO THIS: The contrast of the text is strong and unmistakable.

DO THIS: The contrast of the text from SMU is strong and unmistakable.

  • Careful with images. Too many photos or intricate symbols or logos are a mistake. One strong image can work. If you go in this direction, be very careful what you choose. If you have great imagery that is more complicated, you may be able to compensate with a simpler message. I’ve seen some great one or two word banners that use fantastic imagery.

 

These banners go against some of the rules of clarity but with a large one word message, and unique imagery, they make a great impact on the street.

DO THIS: These banners in Marpole go against some of the rules of clarity but with a large one word message, and unique imagery, they make a great impact on the street.

street banners

DO THIS: The use of simple text and one strong image can be very powerful, like in these banners for Port Alberni.  Design: Lindsay Simmonds

  • Avoid dark banners. Go through a main street at night with black or brown banners. They are impossible to see. Either stick with dark text on a light background or very large, clear light text on a darker background.

It’s extremely important when going through the process of banner production to isolate exactly what single message you want to communicate. Banners are generally more effective at general branding than they are at conveying complicated messages.

When done right, there aren’t many more effective methods of area branding than street banners. Have fun!

About Darryl Kaplan

Darryl Kaplan is a public speaker, author and advocate who believes that the BIG IDEA will save Main Street and create a new revolution in local living. An entrepreneur with a passion for small business and retail, Kaplan founded the Baby Point Gates Business Improvement Area in Toronto, and currently sits as its Chair. He was elected to the Executive Committee of the Toronto Association of Business Improvement Areas - an organization that represents 81 BIAs and 35,000 small businesses. A multiple award winner in communications, magazine writing and editing, Kaplan has had hundreds of columns and editorials published nationally.

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