Billboards. We pass them every day on the nation’s highways and boulevards, and we accept them as commonplace and static elements of the global advertising environment. With only seconds to capture a driver’s attention and convey a message, billboard design demands the utmost in brevity, impact, and urgency. Lately, however, there’s been something of a revolution in billboard design – interactive and functional billboards.

Design Meets Function in Lima, Peru

Lima is a unique city in that it is the world’s largest population center located in a coastal desert. The region receives only one half inch of rainfall annually, but has an average atmospheric humidity over 90%. Over 700,000 Lima residents have no access to a clean, reliable water supply. This unique environmental challenge inspired engineers at Peru’s University of Engineering and Technology (UTEC) to create a billboard that not only serves the community’s water needs, but uses the environment’s own dynamics to do it.

UTEC created a billboard design that incorporates five condensers that gather moisture from the air and channel it to a 20-liter storage tank at the billboard’s base. The structure generates 96 liters of clean filtered water each day, directly from the atmosphere, and provides residents with an accessible and reliable water source. The billboard has done something else too—it has boosted UTEC’s enrollment by demonstrating engineering’s positive impact upon the community.


Image credit: designboom

Nike Partners with UNICEF in Argentina

The Nike name is familiar to athletes (and non-athletes) worldwide. To publicize a 10k charity run in Argentina, the athletic shoe manufacturer worked with design firm BBDO to create an interactive billboard that generates interest and contributions. The unique interactive design lets passers by run on a treadmill that tracks the communal distance in kilometers. For each kilometer run, Nike pledges a donation to UNICEF. The concept promotes, health, training, participation in the 10k run, and philanthropy, while promoting the Nike name. That’s what you call a win-win.


Image credit: WebUrbanist

HBO “Big Love” Audio Billboards in NYC

Agency BBDO also created this uniquely interactive set of audio billboards that invite pedestrians to use headphones to “plug in” and hear the characters’ secret thoughts, ranging from the innocuous to the dramatic. The boards also featured an HBO-branded jack with audio promoting the new season of Big Love.

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Nikon Makes Everyone A Celebrity in Seoul, South Korea

To promote its D700 digital SLR camera, Nikon gave shoppers at a Seoul mall the red carpet treatment. The interactive billboard features an eager crowd of virtual paparazzi, who release a flurry of flashes as a passerby walks an actual red carpet laid out before the billboard. If you ever wondered how it feels to be a celeb arriving at a premier, this might be your best chance. And conveniently, the red carpet leads directly to a mall where consumers can buy the D700. Imagine that.

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Image credit: The Cool Hunter


These are just a few of the ways billboard advertising is moving from the static to the interactive. As designers continue to build upon this work and exploit the latest technologies, we can expect even more ingenious interactive applications that put the consumer at center stage.