Printing

Ban On Digital Billboards in LA

Don't Stop the Presses!

The debate over how much signage should be allowed to fill, decorate, or blight the landscape of urban environments is old as the billboard itself. Some people consider outdoor advertising as bad as any form of pollution. Others feel it adds a fascinating design element to otherwise gray, uniform cityscapes.

With the birth of new forms like supergraphics and digital displays, the argument has only gotten more heated. And now, in a reworking of its civic sign ordinance, the city of Los Angeles has proposed some major changes to the way people will be able to advertise in a city famous for its signage.

The most interesting part of the ordinance, for those of us obsessed with the continued flourishing of the print industry, is a ban on digital ads. Apparently, the glaring lights at night and the flashing images seemingly designed to distract drivers were a bit much-too-much for Los Angelinos.

So who knows? Maybe this is the beginning of the end for digital signage and a future of targeted high-tech ads. Maybe the technology poised to crush outdoor print advertising will find itself stunted in its nascence due to how purely invasive it is.

Another, less good-for-print change in the ordinance is a ban on supergraphics – those giant feats of print that wrap entire buildings. I'm of two minds on the subject, personally.

On the one hand, perhaps signs that huge have no place in this world. From a green perspective, the materials, inks, and energy involved in producing a wrap for a building is almost offensive. And even as a printer I can admit that.

On the other hand, those who argue that they don't want their city skyline taken up by a giant ad fail to see that many of the pieces of architecture which dominant city centers are themselves ads for the businesses they enclose. Is one more 'deserving' of public airing than the other?

For a more in-depth look at the debate over outdoor signage, check out the Design Observer essays here and here. Scroll through the comments of the latter for my response and several impassioned rebuttals.


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