The first posters were created in the mid-19th century in France as advertisements for new products. In less than ten years, the use of posters spread from France throughout the rest of Europe. They were also used for promotional purposes for theater, and operas shows and major events in Paris and the throughout France. "The Father of the Poster," Jules Cheret, was the first to give importance to the poster as an artistic image. We prize the beautiful artwork Henri Toulouse-Lautrec used to promote the Moulin Rouge and other “theater” of his time.
Like most print media, graphic arts were dependent on the invention of the printing press. This allowed for the mass production of all shapes and sizes of posters as well.
Today, posters continue to promote theater, movies, events…and what works back in the 1800s in terms of design and advertising, still works today.
When you are designing in this graphic form, the poster's purpose and application should be your first considerations. The poster will likely be on display in a public area, where it will have to compete both with its surroundings and with other posters.
When you are designing a poster, the first decision to make is the size and shape of the design area. This may be governed by the display site.
These are the most popular sizes that serve a variety of uses:
- Portrait and Landscape: Most common sizes are 81/2x11, 11x17, and 22x34.
- Large Format Posters: Most common sizes are 24" wide and 36" wide.
Here are 9 quick graphic design tips for your great poster design:
- Establish the information to be conveyed and its heirarchy. The most important (or name of the event) should be the biggest and brightest.
- Decide on the size, proportion, and shape. Your poster can be small, like letter-size or large (billboard!)
- Research the locations for your poster. Is it an appropriate venue? You don’t want to promote a garden party at a construction site.
- In this day of techno-communication, have a website or landing page for your event and get a QR Code or link (keep the name simple, please!) and drive them to your website. Easy for people to scan with their smart phone.
- Simplify the information to be communicated. Let me repeat, simplify the information to be communicated. You have a short amount of time to convey your message. Don’t muddle it with a lot of stuff they can get on your website.
- Produce scaled-down version of the design. This serves two purposes: 1. You can use the design on your web page or in an email and, 2. Print it out, tape it on the wall and back up…can you easily read it? Does it grab your attention?
- Consider how to space your elements. Don’t be afraid of color or white space.
- Select the correct typefaces that work for your design or event. Not too many! 2 or three should do it. Circus type for Circus events. Think “can I read it?”
- Make sure the message is conveyed clearly and dynamically. Simple words. Short message.