This is a billboard design I'm working on (to be used on highways). I think the heading on this is a little less legible (I just feel so. Is it really?).

So is there any way to make it more legible? I tried putting a black overlay above building layer and reduce it's opacity to make the white text more legible, but increasing the opacity makes the building less visible. (There's still an overlay with 20% opacity)

  1. So what can be some the other possibilities to make it more clear and readable?

One more query related to readability is: The number on the footer is Indian mobile number. I've used dots to separate it. On Wikipedia, they've mentioned we can use a hyphen:

Mobiles: Written as AAAAA-BBBBB for ease of remembering

  1. Given that all, can I use periods (or hyphens) at TWO places instead of ONE, to separate the number into 3 easily readable parts? OR would it make it confusing and incorrect format? (Personally I feel it more attractive and beautiful, but I don't know if I'm breaking any mobile number rules by doing it).

enter image description here

2 Answers 2



There are many ways to make it more visible or giving it a bigger visual hierarchy. One of the neat way is with a duplicating shadow.

  • Duplicating the text
  • Moving it down-left
  • Filling it with black or the dark blue from the sign

Phone number

Personally I would try to eliminate the noise in number information.

  • Inserting a phone icon at the beginning
  • Increasing the tracking
  • Separating the number groups

enter image description here

Semi transparent patch

enter image description here

  • 1. Thank you. This is really nice approach, using a solid shadow. But it makes it a little old fashioned?
    – Vikas
    Commented Jan 19, 2019 at 16:58
  • 2. That is also right. But still any idea about the query? Using dots and hyphens is incorrect?
    – Vikas
    Commented Jan 19, 2019 at 16:59
  • 1
    The shadow is never old fashioned, in fact it is with us since we are in this world 😉. I think using dots or whatever in phone numbers is right, but as I wrote in the answer is unnecessary visual noise, especially in long distance reading signs.
    – user120647
    Commented Jan 19, 2019 at 17:02
  • 1. Seems right. I'll think about it. 2. Even when 534 & 232 & 444 has no special meaning except easy to remember, still there's nothing incorrect by using dots/hyphens?
    – Vikas
    Commented Jan 19, 2019 at 17:05
  • Like in USA, separated parts have different logics and meaning.
    – Vikas
    Commented Jan 19, 2019 at 17:08

This post if full of random image examples from a Google Image Search. Images are copyrighted to their original creators. No license or permission should be attributed to any images in this posting.


Anytime I get the urge to put a drop shadow on type so it can be read, the design isn't solid. Type should be readable without something like drop shadows. Now that is not to say using drop shadows is a mistake. It's not always. It is merely my preference that things should work without a drop shadow... then if one is added, it's secondary and not critical to readability.

In order to make type work without a drop shadow there are a number of varying techniques I feel are available. Which option works best is highly dependent upon the photo and the amount of text to be used.

The key, for me, to using a photograph behind text is all in the photo. Not all photographs are suitable for such usage and it takes care to use the right photo much of the time. And the method of applying type may change based upon the photo.

Narrow Tonal Range

Fist, I'd ensure the photo has a good general contrast for my usage. That means its general tonal range is either dark or light - therefore allowing a contrasting type color to "pop" as much as possible.

For darker photos, reverse type should work well if the photo has the desired tonal darkness to it. Roughly a photo that is 50% dark and darker across most of its surface.

enter image description here enter image description here

... or the converse for dark text.
(Finding examples if dark text on light photos isn't easy via Google. This isn't a "stunning" example.)

enter image description here

Large Areas of Similar Tone

If the photo simply does not have an overall narrow tonal range is is a mix of dark and light areas, then placement of the type can be key. Using a photo with a large area of a similar tone and them placing the text within that area can work well.

enter image description here enter image description here enter image description here enter image description here

Magazine covers tend to use this technique quite often:

enter image description here enter image description here enter image description here

Visual elements

Another option is to design a "container" for any text so that you can push the contrast overall between the photo and the text. This can be done in many ways and, to me, is always preferable to drop shadows.

enter image description here enter image description here enter image description here enter image description here

I alway prefer tonal alterations to the image, such as darker areas or screened areas over solid colored elements, but that's more a matter of preference I think.

Alter the photo

Another option is to alter the photo to be used giving it a general tonal range you can use when otherwise it would not work.

enter image description here enter image description here enter image description here enter image description here

With all these techniques, the use of things like strokes or drop shadow is not really necessary for readability.

For that particular photo....

  • First I'll state that I do not think the contrast on your image is bad. The reverse type over the building is perfectly legible. There's some slight visual "noise" merely due to the windows of the building. That pattern behind the type seems to cause a sort of "vibration" when reading, but it's very minor. However, I do realize this clearly isn't your actual type and that may be more problematic than your sample.

I would utilize the large area of sky and the solid color on the right you have. I, personally, would not do any sort of bottom banner. My design sense tells me that bottom area is clutter and visually "noisy" overall.

enter image description here

This is an absolutely horrible cover up of the type you had on the photo. The actual photo may provide better options. I'd like a different crop on the photo, but I don't know if that is available to you. I'm not overly fond of the bottom portion of the photo and would prefer to show a bit more ground and well as show the right edge of the buildings.

In the end, this is highly readable in my opinion.

Regarding phone number separators....

Many "business people" will tend to think the periods will confuse readers. In my experience it doesn't. The periods are fine.

I've created thousands of pieces with phone numbers on them. Sometimes I use the periods, sometimes hyphens, sometimes nothing, sometimes a totally different element. The alteration of the separator has had no direct discernible effect on ROI.

The imperative part of the phone number (for English speakers at least) is the breaking of the digits. XXX XXX XXXX or X XXX XXX XXXX is almost always seen as a phone number. As long as you don't break the pattern of 3 3 4, you can really use almost anything as a separator character if you want.

  • Did you read that it will be used on highways? Many of your examples are useless in long distance reading.
    – user120647
    Commented Jan 19, 2019 at 20:24
  • Actually, I disagree. many my examples show methods which are very useful for billboards. The particular google images I pulled to show the method may not make great billboards, but that wasn't the intention. (And I didn't down vote your answer merely because I disagree with you [that icon is absolutely horrid].. but oh well).
    – Scott
    Commented Jan 19, 2019 at 21:25
  • Fortunately none of the elements of my answer are my designs, neither the ad nor the icon 😉
    – user120647
    Commented Jan 19, 2019 at 21:39
  • 1
    I found your view about bottom footer helpful. Your other approaches for making text legible were also helpful. But I found @Danielillo 's answer more helpful for this particular problem.
    – Vikas
    Commented Jan 20, 2019 at 9:42
  • 1
    Whatever works :)
    – Scott
    Commented Jan 20, 2019 at 15:42

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