If you need to advertise an event, product launch or special offer, a poster can be an effective attention grabber. You don’t need to have the skills of Roger Kastel and produce the next Jaws phenomenon. But your design does need to stand out in-store, in a conference centre or at local fairs and events.
There are principles around effective design that are unique to posters. Given their placement, you need to consider these points to ensure your posters achieve maximum impact.
What content to include
It is easy to fall into the trap of having a lot to say and wanting to cram it all onto a poster. With the content for a poster, ‘less is definitely more’.
It’s like the new electronic road signs on the motorway, use text sparingly as you don’t have their time long enough to tell the whole story. 2-3 seconds is all you get to grab their attention so make it count with a short snappy message.
What you include will vary greatly depending on where you use this and the message you want to share. Keep it brief and informative like a movie poster, use images or graphics to get your point across.
You need a hook, just enough to draw them in so you can then pass on the rest of the information through conversation, your website or in-store point of sale.
Deciding on font, size and formatting
In most situations, posters need to be readable from some distance away, at least the headline. A common distance to read a poster would be from 4 to 6 feet, for a large or an A1 or A0 sized poster, and 1-2 feet for A4 – A2 posters , so headline text will need to be in a large font and jump of the page.
Don’t be subtle, you need to make it easy to read and use high contrast colours against the background, the more dramatic the better!
If you do have a chunk of text you cannot do without, avoid making it all bold. It can be a real strain on the eyes to read a whole paragraph in bold so use formatting to highlight particular points like names, dates or places.
Creating an effective layout
As westerners we are used to reading and writing from left to right, most people will intuitively try to scan your poster starting from the top left. This can be significant to the overall design and layout of the content.
When you consider the elements, such as headline, body, logo and images, start from the top left, laying out your sections in a conceptually logical order.
Your readers eye should flow through the content naturally. You should not need obvious arrows, you’re not making a decision flow chart! You can use subtle design tricks that lead the eye like diagonal lines or image elements to draw the viewer from a headline to a key piece of information.
Sections, supporting information or anything of secondary importance should go at the end of the poster (that is the bottom right).