Thoughts from the Road

By Karen Hendricks

Don’t you just love the welcome signs that greet you as you cross state lines?  My travels took me from Pennsylvania to Maryland yesterday to meet with a client and I was struck by the differences in the welcome signs I noticed on either side of the  Mason-Dixon Line. Because I was driving at the time, I didn’t snap photos of my own.  However, I dug them up on the internet:

Credit: Christopher Wheeler,

Credit: Misty Garrick Miller, Flickr

Ok so a few thoughts immediately come to mind:

  • The “welcome” is quickly followed by rules!
  • The top priority for each state is quite different!  (At least on this roadway)
  • Although I love my home state of PA and I hate to see litter, isn’t safety a bigger concern?
  • Kudos to MD for enacting legislation prohibiting texting while driving and informing drivers of this fact right away.
  • Currently, PA has enacted a state law against texting while driving.  Some lawmakers are also trying to pass a statewide ban against hand-held devices.
  • Will PA be undertaking a signage campaign to make drivers aware of their ban on texting?
  • Are the days of large, friendly welcome signs gone?  I miss the nostalgic, gateway-style welcome signs where travelers could pull over and snap a photo as they entered a new state.

The challenge in signmaking, as in billboard design, is to stick to the KISS principle (keep it simple, stupid).  Did you know the guideline for billboard design is to include no more than seven words?  Traveling along a highway, glancing at a sign, that is the optimum number of words that the average person can read.

It drives home the point (pun alert) that messaging, whether on signs, captured in headlines, or within advertising/marketing campaigns, needs to be informative, effective and to the point.  Every word needs to be carefully considered so that the overall message hits the target.

One thought on “Thoughts from the Road

  1. Great observations! I have never seen someone pulled over for littering? I highly doubt any driver or passenger is thinking of that welcome sign when they chuck their cig butts, fast food wrappers or God only knows what else out the windows. As unslightly as it is, litter won’t kill someone like texting and driving. Definite kudos to MD for welcoming visitors but letting the law be known right up front! By the looks of that sign, there’s serious meaning behind all 7 words!

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