An analysis of road signage and advertising from a pragmatic visual communication perspective

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This paper analyses examples of road signage and billboard advertising along the M1 Motorway between the Gold Coast and Brisbane from a pragmatic visual communication perspective. Such a perspective requires that two studies be conducted simultaneously. One study examines how people use designs while the other examines how features of designs meet people’s needs.

For this research, the first study consisted of a literature review aimed at determining how people use road signage and advertising. Results indicate that drivers attend to signs differently depending upon personal variables such as driving experience, environmental variables such as traffic density, and sign variables such as the message and visual design.

The second part of the research involved comparing all types of signs along the M1 to best practice in the visual design of roadway information. In this paper, designs that follow best practice were considered to be those that follow principles of positive guidance. As part of this research, the author took photographs of signs in August and September 2008.

Results indicate that research could be conducted on a few types of sign designs. For road signage, it would be useful to study the effectiveness of educational messages placed on variable message signs and whether M1 drivers would find it helpful to have graphics placed on these signs. It would also be useful to study the use of more mixed-case text and the Clearview font on signs, and the effectiveness of tourist signs. Further, it may be useful to develop a more detailed taxonomy of driver types on which to test signs. For advertisements, it would be helpful to provide additional guidance to billboard designers on making messages more effective and appealing, and to test what creates distracting content. This paper should be useful to traffic engineers, and teachers and students of roadway information design who would like to increase their knowledge of signage design and design research.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)55-64
Number of pages2010
JournalJournal of the Australasian College of Road Safety
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2010


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