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Send the Right Signals with Type


When it comes to effective marketing, typography can make — or break — you.

One of the Bs recently stumbled across some outdoor advertising for a college in Boston. It had an engaging image and a compelling message, but there was something a bit off about it. The copy used a play on words— two nearly identical statements with a single word switching out and making the point. Oddly enough, the art director chose to make that all-important word smaller than the rest of the sentence. Exactly the opposite of what the strategy called for. Hmmm.

We started looking for more examples of ads in which type doesn't do the creative concept any favor. Moving left to right, here's what we came up with ...

Burying the lead
The headline reads DON'T JUST MAKE IT TO BOSTON. MAKE IT IN BOSTON. Cool, we get it. But, the word IN is smaller than the rest of its sentence. It's easy to miss IN altogether. Similarly, the tagline next to the school's logo says MAKE YOUR WAY. We have to assume "YOUR" is the most important part of that phrase (you, your, yourself are million-dollar words for marketers), but again, the word is smaller. If this is deliberate, it's getting in the way of reading and comprehension.

Breaking up is hard to do
You can't tell everyone who reads your message exactly how you'd like them to read it. So, make sure it's reader-proof. Your line breaks and color choices need to make sense and work with your design not against it. In this piece of signage, changing the background color halfway encourages people to read the words down in columns rather than across in lines. So, the message (we assume) "Excellent Alterations and Tailoring" is easily mistaken for "Excellent and Alterations Tailoring."

Double word score? Not.
Don't expect your target audience to play Scrabble. If you get too cutesy with your typography, you make it too hard to read. Here, the over-engineered headline FEED YOUR COMMUNITY DO GOOD can easily get jumbled. Not only is it hard to know what to read first, but the whole thing becomes a word search puzzle. In fact, it's practically a Rorschach test. (Does anyone else see the word DOG? We do. What does that mean?)

Eye Don't Get It
Another execution that's too tricky to read — and consequently way too easy to get mixed up — is this PSA. We're guessing (and most people won't take the time to do so) that it's supposed to tell us DO DRIVE SAFELY, DON'T DIE. But DO DIE actually pops out sooner thanks to color and oversized type. Unless this is the beginning of a horror film, that's probably not what the creative team was shooting for.

Between the Lines
In this BOGO offer, piling too much into a single line makes things confusing. We're all familiar with "buy 1, get 1" offers. But, here adding 50% OFF so close to the second 1 creates an illusion that the offer is 150% off. There are other, clearer ways this could have been set up. Use ONE rather than 1 (BUY ONE, GET ONE 50% OFF) or break the phrase up into two or even three lines, so the reader has time to follow the thought.

Don't Advertise That Lousy High School English Grade
Can you really mess up a three-word sign? Yes. We're assuming this company's sign doesn't own anything, so why the rogue apostrophe before the S? If you're a little shaky on punctuation (or grammar or spelling), find a friend or colleague to check your work. In fact, it's a good idea to always get a second or third set of eyes to catch anything that may have slipped by you.

Don't Hate Me Because I'm Beautiful
Handwriting fonts can be a great choice; they convey personality, humanity, and a cool casual style. But, they can be notoriously hard to read. Especially on something like a billboard where you have to convey your meaning quickly. The only word here that's easy to read is LOVE, which we guess is better than HATE. Still, please make sure your copy is clear. We thank you. Keira thanks you.

I Need My Space
Spacing and letter kerning can be a help or a hindrance. In this case, the creative person forgot that their logo is also a letter. A 10-pound bag of ice for $1.00 sounds like a good deal. A 10-pound bag of mice? Not so much. Actually, we don't know how much rodents go for these days; that might be a very good deal indeed. Unfortunately, most people going to McDonald's would rather not encounter any mice.

'Nuff said.




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