Designing the poster
Plan the visual structure of your poster before you make design choices for every small detail. Careful poster layout and spacing to create an appropriate visual structure will help to make your poster:
- more logically organised
- less 'busy' or confusing
- easier to read and navigate.
A poster's layout sets its overall visual structure. The layout determines where you will place your information within the available poster space. How you divide the poster space and the placement of headings and graphics, as well as how much space you assign to your different elements, will all work together to tell your audience how the poster should be read and navigated. Consider:
- What is the poster's orientation? Check if the assignment specifies portrait (vertical) or landscape (horizontal) orientation. If not, you are free to choose.
- Where should I place text and visuals?
If you want certain information to be noticed by your audience, give it a prominent placement on your poster rather than 'hiding' it. If your images or graphs are related to particular text, make the connection explicit by placing the image close to the relevant text to create a visual link.
- How can I design a clear reading path?
If your reading path is not clear or logical, your audience will not be able to follow your poster's narrative. Readers want to know what to read first, and in what sequence they should read the poster content. English readers generally start to read at the top left-hand corner of a page, and continue right and down from there (see example below). You can indicate the reading path by the placement of your text and graphics, or with graphics such as arrows.
There are many ways you can design a poster's layout. Consider the example layouts below:
- Which layout do you find the most appealing?
- Would these layouts be able to accurately portray your information?
These are just two possibilities. You can be as creative with your layout as is appropriate in your discipline and use a layout which best suits the purpose of your poster.
It is important to leave some space on your poster blank. Without some blank or white space, your poster will appear crowded and overwhelming. Also, leave space around your images and text, so that they do not overshadow and detract from each other.
Compare the two examples below:
- Which example poster is easiest to follow? Why do you think this is?
Every poster needs a way to catch the eye of its audience. Your design choices for each detail or part will help make your poster more:
- visually appealing
Following proven design principles will help you achieve this, but also use your own judgement. Stand back and look at your poster design and consider how well it inspires you to have a closer look.
A poster is a visual medium, so consider these tips to maximise its visual impact:
- Avoid text-heavy design, as your audience doesn't want to read an essay's worth of text. Write selectively.
- Convey ideas visually with images, graphs, tables and diagrams. This is a chance for you to be creative and consider the best ways to present your information through engaging and efficient visuals.
- Accompany each visual with a caption, briefly explaining what it represents. If you use a complicated visual (e.g. a graph), you may need to include a brief explanation, either on the poster or while presenting.
Check your understanding View
Check your understanding: efficient communication
Compare the text and graph examples below, then consider:
- Which example is easier to read quickly, and communicates information more efficiently?
Certain content cannot be represented visually, so some text will need to appear on your poster. Choose an appropriate font which looks good and is easy to read. Sans serif font types (e.g. Arial, Helvetica, Calibri ) are generally considered to be more readable compared to serif font types (e.g. Times New Roman).
Viewers should be able to read your poster from a distance of one metre. Make sure that your text is not too small to read, or so big that it overwhelms your poster. The following font sizes offer a good general guideline:
- Paragraph text: at least 18 points
- Headings: around 30 points
- Title: around 72 points
Well-chosen colours for text and background can make your poster visually appealing. Be careful in your colour choice:
- Choose appealing, complementary colours. Bold colours can help to draw attention, but avoid colours that clash strongly. Muted colours can look pleasing, but avoid very pale colours that may be hard to see.
- Make the text stand out clearly from its background with your colour choices. If the text doesn't stand out, it may be hard for your audience to read (see examples below).
Making the poster
Making the final version of your poster requires:
- a design tool. I.e. the software or production method you will use to create the poster
- time for reviewing, improving and finalising the poster.
Each design tool has advantages and limitations, so choose one that works best for your design purpose. Programs which can be used for poster design include:
- Adobe Illustrator
- various open source (free) programs available online.
You are not limited to what can be created in one type of software. If necessary, you can create content in different programs and then insert it into your main poster file.
Each poster assessment is different, so check the instructions to clarify the production requirements:
- Does the poster need to be printed, or is a ‘handmade’ poster also acceptable?
- Does the poster need to be laminated?
- Does the poster need to be a physical object, or is it online/digital only?
Check the assignment instructions carefully.
Review each iteration of your poster design to improve it. Assessing other people's poster designs can also help you learn strategies for refining your own poster. Consider a poster's content and design elements, then ask yourself:
- What works well in the design, and what could be improved?
- What would I add to the design, and what would I remove?
- What would I change in the design, and what would I retain?
- Does the poster achieve its communication purpose? How/how not?
Check your understanding View
Look carefully at these posters. Review the options, and consider: in what ways do you think the poster designs could be improved?