Damian Georgiev, a graphic designer at JCW, was standing in front of the office on his lunch break, when he noticed a lost pet flier stapled to the telephone pole.

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“No one will ever be able to read this sign,” Damian thought, as he walked closer to make out the small text on the printed Microsoft Word document. “If anyone is going to find this cat, the person who made it will need to put up a different ad!”

The only reason Damian says he knew it was a lost pet sign was because it was stapled next to the cat’s photo.

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Feeling compelled to help bring in better results, Damian called the number on the bottom of the sheet and offered to remake the sign for free. “I told her that I would design it to be easily noticed and more readable from far away,” says Damian. “I knew people living in the neighborhood would need to see it from their cars.”

Gigi, the nice lady who’d owned the cat for over 15 years, was shocked to get the call and thanked Damian for offering such generous help. Realizing it had been up for over a week with no response, she was excited to get started.

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When redesigning the flier, Damian first made a hierarchy of information, using only what was most important. “Fliers and other ads must be designed to guide the eye so the message is processed as quickly as possible,” says Damian. “If you’re reading a flier at a stop sign or even a billboard on the highway, you have to process the information within seconds of looking at it. For instance, if you’re flying down the interstate, you should never have to take your focus off the road to understand the information on a billboard.”

Here are 5 reasons why most people aren’t reading the messages on your ads:

1. The purpose of your ads aren’t instantly prevalent in the designs.

2. The text is too small and not readable from far away.

3. There is too much verbiage on the ads.

4. There’s no hierarchy of information with different-sized text, guiding the eye from what’s most important to what’s least important.

5. There’s no clear call-to-action.

In order for signage to be effective, it must be legible, direct and extremely clear, and the same goes for your lost pet fliers.

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A week after Damian finished the design the lost cat flier, the owner received a call from someone reporting they had found the cat.

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Without his help, it wouldn’t have been possible.

— Gigi