How to create an impactful poster for maximum effect.

Whether you are launching a new product or running a fund-raising event, you want people to know about it. Posters are surely an effective way to get people to take notice. If that wasn’t true – then why else do newspapers still display their daily headlines to commuters on posters along the streets?

Even a poster placed in your community centre tells the story of its ability to spread news of an event. Drawing and keeping attention however are two different things. With an impactful poster you want both. You want to grasp and hold attention long enough to convey your message.

Design tips in creating a poster for maximum effect.

1. Making the best use of the available space.

With almost half a square meter of surface area available on an A1 poster, one might be tempted to cram and squeeze in too much information. Keep in mind that with an A1 poster you need a minimum font height of 5 cm if you want your poster to be readable by commuters. Overcrowding your poster with information can make people feel overwhelmed when they start reading and cause them to lose interest. Grabbing and keeping the attention span of a reader usually happens in about 10 seconds.

A great poster design leads a person smoothly from one piece of information to the next. The better your choice of words the more interesting the ‘reading process’ of you poster. Getting the content and design of your poster right helps delivering maximum effect.

Here are the two basic poster sizes (mm):
A1  = 594 x 841 – minimum font height 50 mm
A2  = 420 x 594 – minimum font height 25 mm
Most advertising boards only accommodate posters in ‘portrait’ (height taller than width) and not ‘landscape’.

2. Concise and compelling communication.

Before starting with the design, choose a title for your event poster. Think of a newspaper headline, and choose a short and sharp title that is compelling.

Have all necessary information that should be displayed on the poster at hand. Be sure that you have the accurate date, venue, bookings or ticket as well as contact information. Choose fewer words rather than long sentences. Say what needs to be said in the most efficient way possible.

Be sure to follow the requirements for public posters by your local municipality. This regulated information which may possibly include credit or trademark recognitions can be placed as footnotes in fine print on your poster. The footnote information can be in a 24 point font (slightly less than 1 cm height on an A1 poster).

Click here for information on Cape Town’s outdoor advertising and signage policy.
Click here for applying for swivel lamp pole temporary signage in Cape Town.

3. Choose a representative image or graphic. 

Just as the text, the poster image should be readable and clearly visible from a distance. Choose an image that supports the theme, and symbolises or represents the events’ purpose.Unless your title is a real catchy design, the poster image is most likely the first part of your poster that will draw the eye. Each image has a layout that works best. Choose the positioning between the image and title carefully. Moving the title and image to different positions will give you a feel as to what works better. If you use the image or a graphic as background, take extra care in choosing the text font and colour. Contrasting colours works well.

4. The four elements in the poster layout.

Designing an impactful poster for maximum effect is made possible by the use of these four elements in your design: title; image or graphic; information (date, time, venue); call to action. As people read from top to bottom the order of appearance usually starts with the title first, then the information, and ending with the call to action.

A good measurement for the quantity of text is to test if the complete poster can be read within 10 seconds. As mentioned in the beginning, go for a smooth transition between these four elements to improve readability. Giving each element a designated space is important, but more so to keep the overall picture well-balanced.

During the design steps of your poster, keep the style or purpose of your event and the target market in mind. What imprint do you want your poster to leave on the minds of the readers? Measure your design options against the desired effect, mood or imprint for your poster.

5. The design process.

Your basically have a white ‘canvas’ to work with when you start designing a poster. For maximum effect the ideal is that each component you add to this canvas should contribute optimally to the final effectiveness or your poster.

In the design process you may love one specific concept, like a text font. However, ask yourself how it fits in with the big picture. Choose a component for its contribution to the big picture. When you are faced with options during your design process and you are uncertain about the direction to take: get some distance from the design, slightly squint your eyes and look at your design a bit out of focus. It should be easier to then ‘see’ and spot what works better.

6. Here are a few design components to consider in designing your poster.

Font size: Keep the largest font size for the title of your poster; keep same level information to similar font type and size.
Font type: Readability is key, bold and fewer font types work better.
Word positioning: Give the title a prominent position with smooth transition to the rest of the information.
Graphic: Choose a graphic that mimics or symbolises the theme.
Background: When choosing a graphic as background, use contrasting colour for text.
Word spacing: Stretch to emphasize, and condense to fit text into a given space.
Line spacing: Increase; decrease and consider alignment.
Colour and overall layout: Vibrant, dramatic or classic? Your theme and colour options should match.

7. Printing your poster

Before printing your poster be sure to check and double-check accuracy of the finished design. List the corrections first, and then correct. Check the detail again. It might even be a good idea to rest your eyes for an hour or two, and then go over the poster one last time before printing. At TopCopy you can print one single poster to as many copies as you need for your event, professionally.