Posters and signs convey information in a succinct, direct format. They’re designed to capture the attention of people passing by, so they need to be visually appealing and well designed. These six tips will guide you through the poster design process.
1. Refine your content
Posters and signs present information in a succinct manner, so you must know exactly what you want to say to the viewer. Ask yourself what your message is about, and what is your purpose? Eliminate extraneous content that’s not directly relevant to your message.
Make sure that your poster clearly communicates your message and gives the reader all the information they need to act. If your sign or poster is not a simple informational poster but has a purely marketing purpose, including a call to action at the bottom of the poster is essential.
For example, do you want the reader to enter your store or to know about a special event? If so, you need to tell them about your summer sale, or when and where your VIP night will be held and how they can register for it.
Posters are designed to capture the gaze and to be quickly scanned so that readers can quickly decide whether the content is of interest to them or not. Using headings, subheadings, and blocks of text is an effective way to ensure that content is presented in the most effective way on your poster.
Headings and Subheadings
Break text up with headings and subheadings that clearly state what the text is about, and use effective words to capture the reader’s attention. Experiment with different headings, and check that each heading or subheading is succinct and interesting enough to capture the reader’s attention.
Avoid incorporating too much detail into your poster or sign. Where possible, offer summaries of the information and use sub headings and paragraphs to make blocks of text easier to read and scan.
How much text should you have?
Avoid using too much text on your sign or poster. A good general rule to follow for posters and signs is 20-60% text, images and figures, and 40% empty space. This way you’ll avoid cluttering up your poster with too much text and compromising on readability.
Limit the number of colours on your poster or sign to no more than two or three. Too many colours can result in a chaotic or unfocused look, while a lack of colour can lead to a bland effect. Contrast can make your poster or sign more interesting and eye-catching, but again, too much difference can be jarring. Take a balanced approach as you experiment with colours for your content, graphics, and headings.
Avoid backgrounds that are too busy unless you’re after a jarring effect. If you do use a colourful background, make sure there’s sufficient contrast with the text colour to ensure readability. Generally, light-coloured backgrounds with dark-coloured text make for readable, appealing posters and signs.
3. Fonts and text sizing
As a general rule, use no more than two font types on your sign or poster. Using three or more fonts on the same poster can be distracting and give your poster or sign an unfocused, messy appearance. Choose fonts that are harmonious; experiment to see which ones work best with each other.
Text should be at least 24 to 36pt in size and titles should be even bigger, but this will depend on the size of your poster. Check the ideal viewing distance to identify the right font size for your posters and signs.
4. Finalise design and layout
Posters can either be of landscape orientation or portrait orientation. Check your orientation and make sure that it’s appropriate for your theme and poster design. It’s much more common to see posters and signs that have portrait orientation.
If you use landscape orientation, make sure the text is broken up into columns or bulleted points and easy to read. Text should be left aligned; justified text can leave gaps that will look awkward on your poster.
Look for a flow to the content. For posters and signs, the “natural” flow is staggered through columns, from the left to the right. Consider your columns and check that they’re appropriate for the size of your poster.
Make sure that the users can easily scan text from a distance of two metres. If your gaze loses its place in the text when shifting to the next line, the column is probably too wide.
Review empty spaces
Once you’ve settled on a layout, step back and take a look at your poster. Trace the flow of the content, and keep in mind that it’s critical to leave empty space throughout the poster to make it easier to read. Leave a generous margin of empty space around the borders also.
Empty space minimises the impression of clutter and ensures that your poster is visually appealing. If the poster looks cluttered, or if the flow seems interrupted, rearrange the content until you’re fully satisfied with the result.
5. Inserting images and graphics
Images and graphics are great additions to posters and signs; they make the poster more interesting and memorable, and they’re good visual tools for capturing attention.
Choose graphics that are appropriate for your specific marketing message. The image should add to or supplement your message and help the reader understand or retain what they need to know. Use high-resolution graphics; low-resolution graphics can make your sign look unprofessional. If you are unsure if your images will print clearly at full size on your sign or poster, you can simply zoom in on your screen until the images are around the size they will be at full size when printed. This way they will display very close to the quality they will be printed. Add a caption and border to the graphic where possible.
6. Test and print
Once you’re happy with the content and layout, do a test print. Something that seems well designed on your computer screen can look completely different when printed out. Colours can look very different when printed compared to how they look on your screen. Monitors mix red, green and blue (RGB) to produce colours, however most printers use cyan, magenta, yellow & black (CMYK) to produce colours. The impact of this is a different range (Colour Gamut) of colours that can be achieved. An example of this is that very bright almost fluorescent colours and bright oranges that you can easily see on your screen can be hard or even impossible to match with printing. Colour profiling is a very complex process that quality printing companies undertake on a regular basis to ensure they can produce colours as accurately as possible. The most effective way to gain colour accuracy with your printing company is to provide Pantone colours for them to match, or send them a physical print out of a colour you are trying to match.
You might find that you need different colours, resized graphics, or larger or smaller font once you’ve done a test print. If you have doubts about colour or printing, work with a professional printing business for best results.