The impact of graphic design on attention capture and behavior among outdoor recreationists: Results from an exploratory persuasive signage experiment

William L. Rice, Jeremy Shellhorn, Victoria Bloomgren, Lily Booth, Sarah Duncan, Jazzelle Elias, Keaton Flowers, Isabella Gambini, Abigail Gans, Adri Medina, David Obadare, Connor O'Neill, Quinn Rooney, George Scherck, Kate Schmidt, Caroline Thomas, Elena Thomas, Grace Walhus, Peter Whitney, Casey Winckler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


A considerable amount of research has been conducted on the efficacy of social and psychological theory-driven persuasive messaging in effecting visitor behavior in park and protected area settings. However, few studies have investigated the influence of other signage design elements, including graphic character, on the persuasiveness of park messaging. This exploratory research sought to answer the following research questions: 1) Does graphic design influence visitor attention capture in park and protected area signage? 2) Does graphic design influence visitor behavior through park and protected area signage? This study employed an experimental design of 6 signage-treatments incorporating diverse graphic design elements to address two separate management issues—dogs-off-leash and the spread of invasive plant species—at a popular trailhead in Missoula, MT. Results show that both administrative and graphic design signage treatments promoting shoe-cleaning to stop the spread of invasive species proved effective in capturing attention of visitors, suggesting that managers should incorporate both attractive and authoritative elements in park messaging. In regards to influencing visitor behavior, two design treatments incorporating high color-contrast, large “scale” shift and “typography as image” elements proved the most effective for both management issues. These findings indicate that graphic design encapsulating persuasive language is very important to capture visitor attention and influence behavior, and design elements should be considered seriously by park managers when employing various communication strategies. Management implications: • The mixed results of treatment performance (between administrative and graphic design treatments) in regards to visitor attention capture indicate that signage designers should seek to balance attractive and eye-catching graphic qualities with graphic qualities that communicate authority. • Results suggest that if managers are able to minimally capture visitors' attention, they will dramatically increase their odds of influencing visitors' behavior. If visitors take the time to read and elaborate upon the messaging on the signs, the odds of influencing behavior are even more dramatic. • Managers should incorporate graphic design elements such as a “typography as image.”

Original languageEnglish
Article number100606
JournalJournal of Outdoor Recreation and Tourism
StatePublished - Jun 2023


  • Elaboration likelihood model
  • Graphic design
  • Outdoor recreation
  • Signage
  • Visitor use management


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