We consider poster design to be communication in its purest form. It’s a way to quickly and effectively communicate with an audience, whether that be for advertising purposes or just to get your message across. Poster design relies on simplicity and boldness in order to grab attention, and it has become one of the most popular forms of communication today. As a standalone discipline of both graphic design and print design, poster design plays an integral part in the modern marketing mix. Many of the principles attributed to printed posters are now used in digital banners, sequential adverts, hero visuals and homepage landers.
This Knowledge Base article will explore some of the different elements associated with poster design, including colour theory, typography choices, layout options and more.
‘Posters’ first originated at the beginning of the 1800s when most communication was by word-of-mouth. They were originally used as a means for advertising products and services, but they soon evolved into an art form that allowed designers to experiment with different styles and layouts.
The first posters were created in France during the Revolution of 1848 by Eugène Grasset (designer), Henri Rivière (engraver) and Louis-François Lafont.
The invention of large-scale printing presses, including wooden block printing, lithography and linoleum cut printing allowed for greater communication.
During the 19th and 20th centuries, poster design was employed by governments for political purposes. For example, posters were heavily used in France during the 1848 Revolution — they became one of the most popular forms of communication as people could share their messages quickly with a large audience. The messages and iconography used in these posters can be considered ‘information heavy’ — the primary focus being to communicate a message in no uncertain terms. This visual style lends itself to modern-day placards where simple use of colour paired with bold typography express a message.
Similarly, the Russian Revolution of 1917 relied heavily on poster design to spread messages of revolution and propaganda. The iconic red, white and black images of women and children working in fields to help fuel the nation created a sense of national identity in itself; in fact 100 years on, much of Russian visual culture still draws on the simplified illustration style and dynamic typography.
As posters continued to evolve over time, typographers started experimenting with different typefaces, allowing for communication to be more expressive and visually playful. Recent examples of poster design by LBD Studio include Oslo Street Art Tours, The International Society of Typographic Designers, Mace Group and Halley Stevensons.
There are many types of poster design used in today’s communications mix. From sequential adverts on the London underground to large-format digital posters, the number of available formats has increased hugely over the last 10 years.
Standalone posters focus on a single, clear message. The main purpose of a poster design is to quickly and effectively grab one’s attention, whether they are advertising a product, promoting a film or trying to get communicate a public health message.
Folded, or collapsable posters can be unpacked to form a much larger surface. For example, some book covers or dust jackets can be unfolded to reveal a folded poster design. These are a particularly helpful design solution when creating a direct-mail campaign as posters, by their very nature, are typically very large.
Folded posters are also heavily used in game design. Publishers may include a folded map within the game box to help users navigate the game while building brand awareness and loyalty to a particular title or series.
Sequential posters are poster designs that work both as a set and individually. While it is not essential to see every poster in a series, they often build a sense of consistency and continue a message, visual language and tone of voice throughout. This helps to keep a campaign or brand message fresh in the minds of consumers.
Sequential posters also help to establish a sense of continuity, communication and cohesion. Branded sequential advertising is one way in which companies use poster design for both communication and brand building exercises; it allows them to communicate their message more effectively while establishing the company’s identity through repetition.
Advertising billboards are a traditional, large-format adaption of the poster. The concept is the same; use a defined area to quickly and effectively communicate a single message. Advertising billboards are often measured in sheets — this denotes the number of physical sheets used to make up that billboard. For example, a 48-sheet will be made from 48 individual posters that are glued together to form a much larger panel.
Digital posters are similar to advertising billboards, however, instead of using printed sheets, they use a simple pixel system much like a computer monitor. The main advantages of digital posters are that they can be either static or have a level of animation. They can also be updated and changed with far less physical and financial implications. It is usually a case of switching a file and allowing the software to take over.
Another advantage of digital poster design is the frequency and content can be changed depending on location or time of day. For example, one digital advertising board may feature four adverts in a cycle. It may switch through these in a timed manner, or user defined time-slots for each. This gives far greater flexibility for designers, advertisers and marketers.
If your business would benefit from bespoke poster design or a fresh approach to print design and production, please get in touch and we will be happy to advise on the best route forward. We recommend that a strong brand identity is defined to ensure all printed materials are unique, consistent and effective.