If your goal is to merge cool graphics with a decent amount of information, you should make a poster.
Just one poster can communicate your message to a large audience, especially if you put it in a large public area that gets a lot of traffic.
Remember there’s a lot of competition for a person’s attention, and an effective design is a good way to capture and hold your viewer’s attention.
Here you will find a few tips for making an engaging poster. I used Adobe Photoshop CS5, but these steps are easily applicable to whatever graphics editor you choose to use.
Step 1. Choose a story.
Before you start making your poster, you should ask yourself what you want to say. Concentrating on your message will allow you to develop your poster more efficiently. Take a look at successful posters and try to understand how each of them is built upon stories and concepts.
Always keep in mind your final objective while determining your message. Ask yourself, “What do I want to accomplish with this poster? What information do I want to communicate? Who should be aware of what I’m communicating? What do I want them to do with this information?”
There are a number of tools you can use to make a poster. Professional or advanced users often rely on image editors like Photoshop and GIMP because they allow great control over their final product.
If you don’t have experience with more advanced software, Microsoft Word and Publisher are quite easy to learn. You can produce results quickly and easily with these programs.
iPhone and iPad users can also download Phoster, a fun application for poster creation featuring many nicely designed templates that can be customized and filled with personal photos.
Step 3. The power of images
Images have the power to arrest the viewer. They help the viewer to get the hang of complex ideas, turning them into something unambiguous and understandable.
Because pictures and graphics are the very first thing people will notice in a poster, you want them to be as captivating as possible. They also need to be very high-quality images. The slightest defects will be apparent after printing an image in large format.
Step 4. An easy tagline
Along with the graphics, the tagline is one of the first elements that naturally draws the eye to a poster. It should be memorable and direct, attracting the viewer’s attention and making them want to know more.
Step 5. The information
Here’s where things can get tricky. You don’t want to leave out important details, like an address or the event time, but you also don’t want to crowd the design of your poster with too much information.
A poster should tickle the viewer’s curiosity, arouse their interest and make them want to know more. Don’t overload your poster with information that doesn’t belong there. Try to include only the essential details.
Step 6. Short and to the point
Often a poster’s success can be measured in terms of its creativity and succinctness, but you also want your poster to be striking and legible, even at first glance.
Since you have a very limited window of time to grab your audience’s attention, you have to focus all your communicative skills on what’s relevant. For this reason, make sure you include elements that really get your message across, cutting out anything that is superfluous or distracting.
Step 7. The layout
The composition of your poster shouldn’t be casual or haphazard. Choose colors and typefaces carefully. Include only short paragraphs or brief lines of text. Give the graphics a prominent placement, but make sure they don’t take anything away from the wording.
Keep things on the simple side. You don’t want any elements competing for space. Try to create an organic whole, as opposed to a collection of parts, with the emphasis where you want it to be.
It's all about precision.
In a way, posters can be seen as the maximized version of flyers. However, unlike other advertising materials like leaflets, posters must be deciphered at greater reading distances. Their purpose must be clear, but they should also be more about awakening curiosity than about offering actual information.
Featured image courtesy of assemblyman-eph.blogspot.com.