Characteristics of good poster design

What makes a good poster design? Poster designers should follow a few basic rules when creating a poster to make it as effective as possible. In this article, you will find basic information about posters and good poster design.


Definition of a poster

A poster is a monochrome or multicolored sheet of paper, usually designed with text and images. A poster is placed on a suitable area in the public space to convey a message.


Purpose and function of a poster

A poster is supposed to catch the attention, inform, convince and provoke. If the viewer feels addressed, a poster can influence his or her decisions through text and images.

An optimally designed poster appeals to the viewer’s curiosity, his or her intellect, but also unconsciously to the emotional side. Finally, the viewer’s reaction to the poster depends on his interests, inclinations and especially on his social situation. Consequently, each viewer may interpret a poster differently, based on his or her origin, the background, and social as well as political realities.


Mission of a poster

To be effective, a poster should

  • attract attention (optical eye-catching through shape and color),
  • be memorable (original motifs and texts),
  • have an interesting design (original combination of font, image and color), and
  • a clearly structured message or statement.


Important design principles must be observed when designing posters:

  • First, define the target group: address the message of the poster to a clearly defined target group. An effective poster should always be designed for the defined target group.
  • In addition, determine the fonts: selected font should achieve a long-distance effect, so that the text is legible from more than 100 inches.


Text selection and positioning

The content and information must be easy and quick to grasp as well as memorable and persuasive.  Therefore, the statements should be brief and concise. Furthermore, keywords and key terms make it easier for the viewer to understand the message. Finally, you should integrate the core statement on the poster into the overall layout.

Make sure not to place the text at the edge of the poster sheet, even though there are some very well-designed vintage posters with text at the edges. You should choose the font color in such a way that it contrasts strongly with the background.


Shade selection

Choose colors that match the message and with high contrast for a better distance effect and attention. Strong colors are often an eye-catcher in a poster.


Visual material

Images should support messages visually. They must have a direct connection to the core message of the poster. The chosen pictorial material should not overload the poster and confuse the viewer. Additionally, the legibility of the font should not be impaired by a dominant effect of the integrated images.

To make sure that your poster meets the standards of effective poster design, there are a few questions you should ask yourself when analyzing your draft poster designs:

  • Is the message clearly aimed at the target group?
  • Is the creative implementation of the communication goal tailored to the target group??
  • How high is the degree of credibility/identification of the message for the viewer?
  • Will the poster catch the attention of the public?
  • Is the design clear and understandable?
  • Is the poster designed in an original way?


Evaluation criteria for posters

The specific requirements for a poster design should be defined before starting with the poster design. Key aspects are:

  • Content and information to be transmitted
  • Font/text/text positioning
  • Relation between picture material/text
  • Color selection
  • Format/layout
  • Originality/design idea
  • Artistic overall impression


The AIDA formula

The perception of an advertising or product poster by the recipient takes place in gradual successive stages, which are summarized in the AIDA formula:

Attention: A poster attracts attention

Interest: The recipient’s interest in studying the poster

Desire: The message provokes a desire to acquire the “advertised” product or service

Action: The viewer takes an action, which should be the purchase of the product or service


Characteristics of good poster design

Posters in public spaces (pillars, buildings, streets, parking lots, etc.) are subject to numerous external influences such as the type of environment, lighting conditions, weather conditions, competition with other close by visual media, and partial concealment by persons or objects.

The sum of these influences, and the not always optimal framework conditions, have a great impact on the visibility and readability of posters. All the factors result in the most important characteristics to be considered for a good poster design:

Format/Size: generally, a large format is more noticeable, but a smaller, very bright and color-intensive poster is more noticeable than a large, dark-colored poster

Color of the paper/background: use light, not very cloudy colors. For darker colors, the contrast should be considered

Contrast: strong contrasts (e. g. light-dark or complementary contrasts) are striking; however, an overload of contrasts should be avoided

Size and conspicuousness of the motif: choice of an appealing motif in a size appropriate to the format. Originality and recognition should be drivers

Title/slogan: most effective and appealing slogan, e.g. an explanation, question or antithesis

Type and size of the font: choose a font that is easy to read and in line with the “character” of the poster

Remote readability: all the mentioned points have a major impact on the perception of the poster. The context of use (whether large-format city advertising or small posters for a literary reading, usually hanging in buildings) must be considered

Contents/information: information on the product, dates, locations, etc. are legible and included in “exposed” areas of the poster


A few other points to be considered for an effective poster

  • Dark writing on a light background has a better long-distance effect than its negative version.
  • Portrait posters with shorter text lines are better readable and can often be better placed (e. g. in business displays, on doors etc.).
  • Too many different color areas (without any reference to the content) should be avoided since this may distract from the main message of the poster.
  • As a basic rule of good typography, too many different fonts and font sizes should be avoided.
  • An orderly layout supports legibility and clarity.
  • A dynamic layout and typography should be consistent with the content and character of the advertising message. On the other side, an antithesis can also be powerful to convey the message.
  • Finally, “less is more”: the well-known principle can greatly support a poster design – free standing motifs or slogans attract more attention than a densely packed design, especially on an already overcrowded poster wall.


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