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Guide to Designing a Poster

Press release March 12, 2013

How grab attention and get your message across

Poster design

By Dean Williams (

Whether you’re designing a poster for a trade show or event, a conference, foyer, or for display in any other public space, you have to keep the visual lean and eye-catching. Space is limited, yet you need to grab the attention of passers-by.

What’s the desired outcome?
Much like any other print media, posters are most effective when you design them with the desired outcome in mind. Before you begin adding elements to the page, ask yourself:
• What is the message I want to convey?
• What will make my target audience stop and look?
• Where are the major elements best placed?
• How can everything else on the page reinforce these elements?

What will you include?
While there may be many things you want to include on your poster, such as a call to action, contact details, and additional information along with graphics, you need to resist the temptation to fill the larger page of a standard poster with text that isn’t readable from a distance. List everything you want to include, then break these down into essential elements, preferred elements and supplemental elements. Focus on the essential and preferred elements and include supplemental elements in a separate location - either a handout, flyer or on a web page the poster directs reader to.

great poster designHow will you place the essential elements?
Think about your poster from a distance. How can you place the most important elements on the page for maximum effect? What will stop your audience in their tracks, and pique their interest to draw them in to read the details?

Consider bold headlines in large font, placed where the majority of passing traffic will have no obstructions. Arresting images that support the message and use of white space can also help to focus the eye on the important text on your poster.

How will you place preferred elements?
Use visual clues to create a hierarchy of importance for the other elements, using blank space to frame the poster, bullet points, sub headings and columns of text to create a logical flow. Remember, in your reader’s mind, larger text is more important than smaller text; text higher up is more important than that lower down, and that on the left prioritised over that on the right. If you need to break this perception, creating text boxes or call outs to highlight information can help.

How will you use graphics and colour?
Use graphics or graphs with captions to convey a lot of information in a little space. Even tables of information will break up blocks of text and present data to the reader in a format more readily absorbed by the passer-by.

Choose colours for impact and appeal that match your demographics, but also use colour to create a strong contrast between text and background. You can also use colour to group elements on the page that are related and to highlight differences between elements.

Use fewer colours, grouped elements and meaningful images to help your reader make sense of your message quickly. Avoid using two bright colours for font and background; instead use a light or bright colour text on a dark background or a dark colour text on a light or bright background. Think black text on cream or lemon background, or lemon text on a black background. Remember to use CMYK colours when creating your design for poster printing - most non-standard graphic design software uses RGB colours, these will become dull when they are converted to CMYK colour.