How to Design a Highway Overpass Bridge Banner
Some suggestions for affinity groups from Quinnehtukquet
1. FIRST – Decide where you are going to display the banner and visit the site. Measure the space available. You can put the banner behind the chain link fencing on the bridge, but you’ll want to know where the fence posts and railings are, as these can obscure sections of your banner. It is also a good idea to take a look at the bridge from the highway. Many bridges have signs already attached to them permanently (such as the name of the street) or exit signs. Consider whether these existing signs would be a distraction for motorists who are trying to read your banner at 65 mph. A bridge with too many signs already on it might not be the best site for a banner drop. Exit signs by the side of the highway could be a distraction if located just before the bridge. Also, bridges that cross the highway diagonally might not be as good a location as those that go straight across.
2. Now that you know how much display space is available, make a preliminary design for your banner. If you plan to put your banner behind the chain link fence, figure out how the words will be spaced so that the fence posts and railings will not cover any letters. Remember that whatever you say needs to be read very fast. Our sign had eight words – that’s probably about as much as the drivers on the highway could read. Letters should be at least 12″ high and 2″ thick. Our sign had 12″ lowercase letters and 18″ uppercase.
3. Before you go any further with your design, it would be a good idea at this point to get the actual banner fabric. We used a painter’s drop cloth purchased from a hardware store. It was both large and strong.
4. Now lay out the design in detail. Graph paper is very useful; or the tech savvy could use a graphics program. Take all aspects of the sign into consideration, not only what it is going to say, but how it is going to be supported. Our sign was supported by two uprights, which slide into sleeves on the side of the banner, and a cross bar which slides into tabs on the top of the banner. These supports made it heavy and not suitable to be re-used for marching, but good for the bridge location as it withstood the wind. If you want your sign to be “multi-use”, then you will want to design it with that in mind.
5. Prepare the banner. Cut fabric to size, allowing for margins, sleeves, tabs, ties, etc. If you need to do any sewing, do so BEFORE you do any painting. Paint makes the banner stiff and difficult to move around. See illustration for sewing suggestions.
6. If using canvas, prime it with ordinary latex primer. This does make the banner heavier, but it is a lot easier to paint the letters onto a primed surface. Cover with another coat if you want the background to be other than white.
7. Now spread it out flat and transfer your layout to the banner. Soft pencil works well on primed canvas. Drawing straight lines can be a challenge unless you have a very long, un-bowed piece of metal or wood. A chalk line might be useful. If you take the time to draw the outlines of every letter the painting will go faster and will be more accurate. But don’t expect the lines of the overall design to be just like your layout. It will be good enough!