How To Stand Out With Great Poster Design

Great poster design is an art form unto itself. Through striking visuals, stark contrast, playful use of typography and clever wording, they frequently go beyond being mere promotional items and become bold expressions of creativity, evoking a strong response in viewers. So today we are going to talk about the individual elements which can elevate your poster design to award-winning new heights.

Chilliprinting posters are our most popular print product and always in high demand. No wonder: with high quality at affordable prices, bulk poster printing is a very cost-effective way for promoting your events, advertising your product, business or service and getting your message out. But to really stand out, your poster needs to be clear, grab attention and convey crucial information within seconds.

How can you achieve all this with one unified poster design? To explore how individual factors contribute to the finished product, we have compiled 10 top tips on how to stand out with great poster design. Following these basic principles will help you maximize the effectiveness of your posters.

1. Convey a clear message or idea

Every great poster design begins with a good idea. You are not aiming for the approval of art critics. Think of your audience and what you want to tell them, then pack that into a simple and compelling concept. Posters should grab attention and hold it at least long enough to get their important information across. Focus on what is essential. A dominant element to catch the eye is key, whether you choose a picture, illustration or text.

Retro Robot – Joel D. Poischen. The large visual grabs attention and the retro look illustrates the theme of retrospective.

Tighten your idea and let your design follow: a close-up visual, a crop, a huge headline, intriguing typography, contrasting colors, a large empty space – choose what fits your concept best. Be careful about not layering too many elements on top of that so that items remain discernible, event at a distance.

Masterminds – Neil V Fernando. Event poster series.

2. Optimize for readability

Which brings us to readability: your poster’s headline, main point or key information needs to be legible from afar. For many poster ideas, sizing your fonts between 24 and 48 points will be optimal. To avoid reading strain, don’t use overly curled or stylized fonts. Design within the CMYK color space from the beginning to avoid undesired printing outcomes (see other mistakes you should avoid when printing posters).

Draw the viewer in with a clear hierarchy. Group your elements in three layers:

  1. Headline: This is your main text element. Grab attention and establish the topic clearly. A headline can be an art element itself or complement a visual element.
  2. Details: All the information the viewer needs to know, for example the what, when and where for an event. Be concise. Drop the text size to about half of your headline, or use another way of contrasting it. The choice here depends on your design concept.
  3. Extras: Everything else that needs to be on your poster, such as fine print, logos of sponsors, names of speakers or actors or a disclaimer.
Imagine Film Festival – Nick Liefhebber. Your poster needs to be legible at a distance and follow a clear hierarchy.

3. Be creative in composition but coherent in structure

To elaborate on hierarchy: rank information in order of importance and group together what belongs together. The underlying structure of your poster design should be simple and coherent: make your headline the first focus, then guide the viewer to secondary information and arrange it so they intuitively understand how to access it.

Upon that framework, you can layer a creative composition: if you need to convey a lot of information, type is the way to go. Little copy calls for bold visuals, a stark background or interesting photo. Can you combine illustration with photography? Shapes evoke interest or highlight aspects; a crop creates drama; a softened or monochrome background gives more weight to text.

Call to action poster – Lindsey Pashko. A very simple structure combined with a creative composition creates engagement.

Assemble your individual elements like a puzzle and in a way that is easy to follow yet creates a long-lasting effect. When producing a series of posters (for events or several products), keep variation to a minimum so they can be recognized as belonging together, but also make them stand out on their own.

Socialist Realism – Przemek Bizoń. Minimal variation for a series makes a poster easily recognizable.

4. Find the right balance

Always keep in mind that too much going on in your poster will overwhelm viewers. Sensory overload leads to advertising blindness, so very often, less is more in poster design. A subtle effect can have more impact than a poster screaming at the viewer. Don’t add anything that does not serve a purpose. Understatement can be intriguing; yet intricate elements can be a rewarding challenge for the viewer if you can pull it off.

Balance out type and images and pay attention how visuals interact with text or letters. Symmetry, even repetition and centered elements can create balance. Colors can harmonize or clash. Also, nothing has to be perfect: you can introduce an imbalanced element to avoid blandness.

The Qontintent 2015 – Tarek Okbir & Antoine Collignon. This festival poster strikes a balance between post apocalyptic feeling and sunny, warm atmosphere. Notice the symmetry and willful imbalance: all visuals on top, all text at the bottom.

Empty space

Space is one of the most important design element for posters. Extra spacing augments legibility and impact, especially at distance. Empty space can make elements stand out, help with framing boxes or the entire canvas, improve kerning and create a contrast to elements when used boldly.

nemo? no mo’. – Sharon Forrence. Bold use of empty space is part of the concept here and puts focus on the main element.

5. Choose your size and format wisely

Think about where your poster will be located, because it can influence the size and format of your design. Will your poster have to compete with other visual stimuli around it? Or does it need to stand out from a monochrome surface? Will it be framed, placed in a case, behind glass, or on a billboard?


When deciding on a size for your poster, remember that a print run of a standard size will allow you to produce a larger quantity. Balance your need with your budget accordingly. However, a custom size can help your poster stand out, especially among standard-sized ones.

Also, consider any possible re-use of your design: will you share a smaller version on social media? Will you also distribute it as a postcard or flyer? Will you use it for your email marketing? Make sure your design works on all channels and remains legible at all sizes.


Posters tend to be vertical, from which follows that they’re usually read from top to bottom. Not all designs need to follow that, just like there are different sizes. Experiment with various formats and try a horizontal approach, or be bold and go square.

Punch-Drunk Love – Joel D. Poischen. Movie posters are usually vertical, so a horizontal approach can really stand out.

6. Typography

To increase the impact of your poster, you can experiment with typography. Clean and simple fonts aid readability, but that doesn’t mean you can’t let your creativity flow. You can create great poster design with just text and color.


Select at least two fonts, one for the headline and one for the copy of your poster. Choose typography that conveys the concept or mood of your design. The basics: a bold sans serif conveys seriousness, an italic serif can enhance elegance and loose hand-lettering expresses fun or playfulness.

Listen to Typography – Selman Hoşgör.

7. Contrast

Great contrast between elements can help your poster grab the attention of viewers. You can contrast colors, type, full and empty space, weight, size, photos against illustration, background and foreground, or even ideas. Combine visuals and information to create something new.

Experiment with contrast, but don’t lose sight of what you want to achieve. Don’t use contrast just to let elements clash, but rather let the viewer benefit in some way from the opposition.

China VS. Chinatown (series) – Mengwen Xiang.

8. Know your audience

Who are you designing your poster for? What does your audience like? How can you appeal to your viewers. Your poster design needs to match their preferences, their habits and their culture.

At the same time, challenge your viewers, push the envelope, and go further. Try something new, catch your audience unaware, meet them outside their comfort zone, and place elements familiar to them in unknown surroundings. Don’t confuse them too much or scare them off by making them too uncomfortable, but by knowing their taste, you can guess at what the might also enjoy or find engaging.

9. Evoke a response

Design your poster to evoke a response from viewers. Words and images can have strong connections to emotions such as compassion, sadness, anger, or fear. Instill curiosity, thoughtfulness, wonder, doubt, or happiness in your audience. A strong response makes your poster more memorable and increases the chance for interaction or engagement.

Give Peace a Chance – Agnes Eszter Sólymos.

10. Call to Action

What do you want your audience to do after they have seen your poster? Formulate a precise call to action to let them know how to act or what to do next. Many posters are a sort of invitation, to an event, a movie, or a concert. Include a release date, information on where to get tickets or the time and venue in your call to action.

For other promotional posters, contacting you or visiting our website will be part of your call to action. If you know where your audience is active, you can also include social media profiles. You can feature a QR code to tie your poster to your app or online presence, but only do so if viewers are likely to interact in that way and have opportunity to do so.

Energy Awareness Month 2011. In many cases, a website is sufficient as CTA for your poster.


Even in our digital times of websites and apps, printed posters with great design are still an effective and efficient way of communicating your message and exposing your audience to your promotion.

Bulk posters can work for a variety of projects, be it an event, a service or product or your business you want to advertise. In all cases, research your audience and then find visuals, colors and typography to convey your message and elevate your design. Bold, simple, elegant, understated, noisy – the choice is yours. Be creative and stand out with your poster design!

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