Not a Fan of the Atheist Billboard Designs? Here’s Your Chance to Fix It

Yeah, we’ve heard the complaints before:

“As a designer myself, I cringe at what I keep seeing coming from these atheist organizations.”

“Ugh, seriously. Billboards don’t have to be graphically hideous to grab your attention.“

“All these examples look pretty low-rent to me.“

“All of these are tacky.”

Well, the Mid Ohio Atheists are going to put up a billboard in the Mansfield area this April and they’re asking for your help. All the details are on this page. Submissions are due February 3rd, and voting will commence soon after that.

If you have the talent to design a good billboard, stop complaining and get to work!

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • http://www.facebook.com/nicoleglynn Nicole Glynn

    Having a contest in an attempt to get a better design isn’t a solution, it’s essentially spec work, which is very much not okay in the design industry. By having this type of contest instead of actually hiring a decent designer to create their billboards, they are asking a designer to work for free and cheapening the entire industry.

    • Sgt. James Doakes

      I think the idea is that people are so passionate about the cause that they will donate their time. That’s how 
      http://talkatheist.org/ came into being – excited coders and designers worked together for free.

    • usclat

      It’s called crowd-sourcing and it’s all the rage in this web 2.0 world we’re living in. I like it and I admire that on both sides of the design equation each is willing to compromise. One to generate ideas from a diverse field of contributors and the other in competing with other designers in an open competition. Very cool. 

    • Gus Snarp

      In this case it’s not somebody who actually could afford to hire a designer trying to avoid that cost with a contest predicated on the notion that winning would be good for the designer’s career, it’s really more of an in kind donation to a non profit group you believe in. I understand the problem with design contests in general, but does the design community make no exception for doing work for free as a donation because you believe in the cause? 

      • Almost Chris

         Good intentions aside, if you want a well-designed billboard, you need to hire a good graphic designer.  Crowd-source it and you will get well-intentioned amateur work.  The design industry looks down on contests, and you are unlikely to end up with the professional look you want by the end of the contest.  Hire an established designer.

        • https://www.facebook.com/GentleGiantDK GentleGiant

          Right, because an “amateur” could never design as good a sign as a “professional.”
          And you’d never get a bad design from a professional or established designer…
          If the design industry “looks down on contests” I think it might be scared of some competition. ;-)
          Have you actually seen some of the signs and billboards designed by professional and established designers? Some of them are downright ugly (and some are good! I won’t deny that).

  • Former Thumper

    The problem isn’t the layout, it’s the unnecessarily inflammatory nature of the signs themselves.

    • usclat

      What are you yapping about? STFU! Big time.

      • Anonymous

        What are you yapping about? STFU! Big time.

        Lovely.

        and you received some ‘likes’ for that comment.

        *mind boggled*

        • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ Anonymous

          Because Former Thumper up there is trolling. Telling it to STFU is perfectly appropriate.

          • Anonymous

            Telling ‘it’ to STFU………..again, lovely.

          • Anonymous

            And could you kindly explain how his/her singular (so far) comment constitutes “trolling”?

            Any number of regular commenters could have made the same statement about the posters……would that be ‘trolling’?

            • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ Anonymous

              Because he obviously is against the billboards existing at all — he called them “inflammatory”. Seriously, he had to have known that would get a reaction, and it’s still not out of line to tell him to STFU.

              Or, you know, you could explain WHY it’s out of line, instead of making passive-aggressive remarks about it.

              • Anonymous

                he obviously is against the billboards existing at all

                How does commenting about the tone of the posters automatically = ‘being against them existing at all’?

                you could explain WHY it’s out of line, instead of making passive-aggressive remarks about it.

                How have my comments been ‘passive aggressive’?  

                Referring to people as “it” and telling other people to ‘STFU’ is the level of rhetoric one would expect from children, not adults who are interested in an honest exchange of ideas.

              • Former Thumper

                I’m not against billboard campaigns. I’m against billboards that essentially tell people that they are stupid. I like the coalition of reasons billboards. They reach out to atheists and promote atheist visibility without being needlessly insulting. American atheists makes the rest of us look bad with this.

                • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ Anonymous

                  Er, yeah, because it’s so “inflammatory” and “insulting” to call a myth a myth.

                  Wow, thin-skinned, much?

            • Anonymous

              Any number of regular commenters could have made the same statement about the posters……would that be ‘trolling’?

              I complain about these signs every time the issue comes up. I could have easily said exactly what Former Thumper said (well, not easily, since I go for novel-length comments mostly ;) ). Interestingly, I’ve been accused of being some sort of Christian apologist by people who were obviously new here. I don’t think it’s healthy to identify any dissent as trolling, honestly.

              • Anonymous

                I’ve been accused of being some sort of Christian apologist by people who were obviously new here. I don’t think it’s healthy to identify any dissent as trolling, honestly.

                I wholeheartedly agree Claudia.

                It’s not only rather puerile, imo, but it reeks of insecurity ~ if one disagrees with someone else’s position, counter it with something substantive.  

                Telling other people to ‘STFU’ is something i’d expect to see in the comments section of a youtube video, not here.

            • Former Thumper

              His btw, if your curious. I’m a guy.

        • https://www.facebook.com/GentleGiantDK GentleGiant

          Erm, I actually think the post was made in jest (I wholeheartedly concede that I might be wrong, though). Replying to someone saying something is offensive with an “offensive” post isn’t a new phenomenon.

          Slightly trollish behaviour? Mayhaps.

    • Renshia

      your no former thumper, your a troll right?

    • Religion Revolution

      Agreed. I’m a Christian and submitted an entry because regardless of whether we believe or not we should be able to not be so spiteful to one another.

    • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/FDGYHBEWVNGUG763L5X4TON3JQ Nazani14

      “The Emperor has no clothes on!”
      “HaiBrazil is sinking into the ocean!”

      Inflamatory!!!

  • SteveC

    Hipster designers blow off work as “low rent”.   I roll my eyes.

  • SteveC

       Unnecessarily inflammatory nature?   Really?  Go take a nap.  We have fire breathing to do.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mydjcrow Daniel Sandoval

    I wish they had a specific message to what they wanted on the billboard. I think the details are too broad, unfortunately.

  • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ Anonymous

    I dunno who’s complaining about the billboards, but I think they need to get their eyes checked. A billboard needs to be easily read from a distance, in a moving vehicle — the billboards as they are (and/or have been) fulfill that purpose quite nicely, and aren’t at all ugly.

  • Anonymous

    I don’t think the layout is so bad. It depends on where it is I guess. A bus stop or a bus bring the sign very close and make reading easy. If that’s going to be on the highway with 5 seconds of reading at a distance, it might not work so well.

    Still, you could give it an award winning design and I’d still dislike the signs. I find the message irritating, unnecessarily aggressive, and basically guaranteed to result in time-wasting debates (what do you mean you know? How can you know? etc.). If they are already controversial in the hardcore activist base, I can’t imagine the reaction would be much better from the fence-sitting, timid and closeted population that this is supposed to attract.

  • http://www.shadesthatmatter.blogspot.com asmallcontempt

    As someone with a design background and a general “ooh, ahh, pretty things” appreciator, I thought the billboards were lacking…but so are billboards for hospitals, strip clubs, and the local Menards (so it’s not that they are worse, overall, it’s just that I want pretty billboards for My Favorite Cause, ya know?).

    “Legible” should not be the one and only requirement – anyone with a computer could generate that. What takes actual talent is designing something that is legible AND has visual interest, which is where I think these billboards are lacking. Yeah, you can read them, but to me, they don’t really stand out in the competing billboard-forest.

    And, FWIW, this DOES come across as a grab at some free art; established graphic designers aren’t typically the ones trolling the internet, looking for stuff like this to submit to. It can potentially take years to build a portfolio to highlight your talents, and this bypasses the entire process. At the end of the day, this is essentially asking lots and lots of people to do free mockups for them…which is ok, I guess, but bypasses lots of really quality designers.

    I’d much rather see AA hire a graphic designer of their choice, based on their own research – then they can develop a “style” of sorts and turn out snazzier billboards.

    I don’t think this is a HORRIBLE idea, to be clear – it’s just definitely a process that may get them younger, less experienced designers who don’t have established track records, but that pool tends to be a little less reliable in terms of quality, in general.

    • Anonymous

      To be clear, this is a nonprofit group, responding to people both outside and within their group criticizing the graphic quality of their billboards. The choice isn’t between paying someone to get good design and getting it for free, it’s between free competent design and free bad design. I’m totally fine with helping them out because it’s a cause I care about.

      “And, FWIW, this DOES come across as a grab at some free art; established graphic designers aren’t typically the ones trolling the internet, looking for stuff like this to submit to.”

      They’re not asking for established graphic designers, they’re just responding to criticism by saying “hey, if you want these to be better, lend us a hand.”

      “I’d much rather see AA hire a graphic designer of their choice, based on their own research – then they can develop a “style” of sorts and turn out snazzier billboards.”

      I totally agree, I’m sure they would too, but unlike, say, the Mormon church, the AA doesn’t have vast stores of money to draw from to hire people for this purpose.

  • Anonymous

    I can’t defend Former Thumper. Some are offended just because the signs exist in the first place and no manner of wording will change that. I think FT is trolling, and there are too many people out there who want to silence us all together as it is. Some would even be willing to kill us to make that happen.

    He/she gets no love from me.

  • Anonymous

    Personally I’ve never had a problem with the billboards. Actually come to think of it there is one issue; They’re not as inflammatory as the need to be.
    The soft spoken polite atheist has been pushed over and walked on for years.
    The only reason we have any progress today is thanks to the fruits of outspoken atheist labors.

    We all rejoice when a religious school banner is taken down or secular holiday displays are erected but only a few of us actually deserve to take part in those triumphs.

    The outspoken sometimes rude, controversial and offensive atheists are getting actual secular equality accomplished. They’re battling the military and other government institutes to for the betterment of us all while we’re too busy pussyfooting around scared of hurting peoples feelings.

    • Anonymous

      The outspoken sometimes rude, controversial and offensive atheists are getting actual secular equality accomplished.

      I have two words for you:

      Jessica Ahlquist.

      She’s accomplishing everything you just described and she’s doing it without being as*hole-ish about it.    Just calm, reasonable, intelligent and articulate :)

      If you were suggesting that the “rude, controversial and offensive atheists” are the main ones getting-the-job done, then needless to say, I disagree.

      • Anonymous

        Jessica Ahlquist has offended many people along the way.

        • Anonymous

          But not because she’s been ‘rude’…….merely because people disagree with the content of her message.

          Therein lies the difference.

  • Anonymous

    I created this one, which I think is a bit funny without being mean or calling people stupid. The stated goal of the billboard is to make other atheists aware of the group’s presence, not to convert anyone. I think this accomplishes that:

    • Anonymous

      I love it. Did it run in Ohio?

      • Anonymous

        I just now created it, so not yet. :)

    • Anonymous

      Great job noktulo!   I love it :)

    • Former Thumper

      Nice, this is the kind of billboard we need to be putting up.

  • http://roguemedic.com/ Rogue Medic

    How is this inflammatory, but the church signs that say, “You’re going to hell if you don’t believe,” are not inflammatory?

    Or is this just another double standard?

    It is OK to encourage people to fear all of the different gods with all of their different churches, but to criticize this superstitious fear mongering is “inflammatory”?

    .

    • Anonymous

      No one’s saying most religious signs aren’t inflammatory, I think people are proposing that we raise ourselves above that. 

      • http://roguemedic.com/ Rogue Medic

        Why is it inflammatory to promote reason?

        .

  • http://www.youtube.com/user/GodVlogger/featured GodVlogger (on YouTube)

    I actually LIKE all of the American Atheists billboards shown above. (I was disappointed though that the Xmas billboard at the NYC traffic tunnel didn’t seem to get the publicity this year.)

    I also really like noktulo’s (I was just telling someone last week that “Doubting Thomas” was my FAVORITE of all the alleged apostles).  I have worked for years with non-profit charities where free graphic design work was donated by design students, free-lancers, etc. I see it as no different than a lawyer working pro bono for a worthy cause, your neighbor the nurse educating you about what to expect now that your grampa had a stroke,  or a couple of strong friends helping their buddy move into a new apartment. Kinda funny that some commenters would frown upon caring people wanting to help out for free.

  • Anonymous

    I don’t get it. These billboards have silhouettes that are instantly recognizable and font that is easy to read.

    I think the criticisms might be coming from people who hate the message, not what the messages look like.

  • http://www.gbvehiclehire.com/ Car Hire Birmingham

    We all rejoice when a religious school banner is taken down or secular
    holiday displays are erected but only a few of us actually deserve to
    take part in those triumphs. If this is inflammatory, why to promote this? I love this post.

  • Former Thumper

    Wow, I got a lot of hate in this comment section so far. First of all, I’m not a troll, I really am a former bible thumper turned atheist. Second, I’m in favor of billboard campaigns in general I just don’t like this particular one. Its needlesly agressive. By all means we should be challenging ideas in the public forum, but t take out ad space and do it by calling people stupid is not the way to go about it. How about billboards like the CoR does? “Don’t believe in god? Your not alone” or “are you good without god? Join the club”. We can increase atheist visibility without creating the image that we are assholes. Believe me, there are few people who hat christianity as deeply as I do, but we have to have tact. It is my opinion as an atheist that david silverman and american atheists makes us look bad.

    • http://roguemedic.com/ Rogue Medic

      Pointing out mythology is not calling people stupid.

      You accuse others of being inflammatory, of being assholes, of calling people stupid. The billboards just point out that religion is a myth. 

      Are you claiming that there is only one right way to educate people?

      .

    • Anonymous

      Great points…..you ‘troll’  *wink*  :)

    • The Hamburgler

      Did you even look at all the entries on the other site? There’s one that says, “Don’t believe in god, you’re not alone.” And there are others that aren’t aggressive, just thought provoking. So we should all just cower in our homes while religions literally spread lies through the same types of billboard ads? It would be so bad if we offended anyone, wouldn’t want to do that… let’s just tip toe around!!! Whatever dude.

  • http://www.haarnio.fi/ Oskari Tuomisto

    I agree the design are not good.For me having a relation for your product is a nice design for a good look of billboard.


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