Poster Design: the what and how

A few students have asked: “So, what needs to be included in my poster.” Because this is a beginning design class I really want the students to simple explore the tools we have introduced thus far (i.e., Illustrator, Photoshop) and apply the fundamental design principles and elements (i.e., balance, unity, color, etc.) That being said, because this was a modified assignment, I felt I should address a few basic rules of poster design. As you read these rules/suggestions/considerations, reference the poster example below and try and identify how it meets or does not meet these rules/suggestions/considerations.

1. Audience: who’s it for (client and shopper)
2. Location: what are the background colors and textures of the landscape (i.e., wall, building, etc.)
3. Medium: type of material that it will be printed on (used to print it) – i.e., screen, litho, flexo, etc.
4. Message/Purpose: what distance does it need to be read at? What are the important message details that need to be conveyed?
5. Time: how much time does the user have to read/ingest the message? How long will it be posted and used?
6. Consistent colors: use of many colors can distract; use 1 or 2 emphasized colors to highlight important info.
7. Consistent type: use only 1 – 2 typefaces, and a max of 3 fonts of those typefaces (i.e., if using Arial, use only a bold, italic, condensed).
8. Consistent alignment: use guides to help you layout your poster in a way it reads well – leading the user to the info in the correct process and flow. Usually use a column layout rather than a row layout, so reader doesn’t have to zigzag read.
9. Self-contained: a poster should be self-explanatory, where viewers can view it simultaneously.
10. Viewed from distance: poster should be use short paragraphs, using large typeface (min. = 24pt). Design figures to be seen from a distance, so they are clear and visible. (Note: obvious depending on size of poster, the font size will change).
11. Background: traditionally the most effective communication is black text on white/light backgrounds (this is changing with improved printing techniques – but it still mostly rings true).
12. Font color: light colors are difficult to read, i.e., yellow. (although this is often dictated by background color and environment where poster is going to be placed).
13. Gradients: careful of banding (where gradient’s color steps have distinct edges – this occurs often on large posters.)
14. Remember: use design principles to self-evaluate your poster as your plan and work on it.

Retro Poster
Retro Poster

Juicy Poster
Juicy Poster

Clients and designers
Clients and designers

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