How to create a show stopping poster

The poster was one of the earliest forms of advertising, made popular during the 1800s by predominantly French artists. The poster quickly became a staple of the graphic design trade around the world and is still an important marketing tool today.

By Carla Stanton, graphic designer at technical PR agency Stone Junction.

Poster design is an area where you can really let your creativity take the lead by bending the rules and experimenting to provoke emotion. Some posters can get you excited and create buzz, while others are satirical or informative. As with all design, the key is finding the right balance between attention-grabbing images and thought-provoking text. Generally, you only have three seconds to get your audience hooked.

Knowing your audience and the purpose of the end result is crucial for creating an engaging and powerful poster. Once you have the initial information, this will stimulate the mood and prompt your colour choice, fonts and any other graphic elements. Even when marketing for businesses, the design of a poster is an artform.

By considering your composition carefully and making sure all the important text is clear and legible, you can then start to think about how the text and imagery complement each other. For example, consider whether you want text overlaying imagery or working around an illustration. You can experiment with visual hierarchy and piece the design together in order of importance. 

If there is a lot of information to get across, focussing on typography rather than graphics or photography can work well. It is also worth checking that you can read the poster from a distance. If your type is too small you need to consider cutting back on words to fit into your design or re-arranging the layout.

Marketers who need their posters to engage viewers should also think about reaction. In some cases, few words or the use of a dramatic photograph can say so much more than an intricate design. As the saying goes, sometimes a picture can say a thousand words. 

Colour choice can also sway your audience, so try to select a colour pallet that complements the event, product or information the poster contains. Block colour and brights can work well on posters and make them eye-catching just as much as the use of black and white or colour overlays — there are no limits!

The other area where you can step away from brand guidelines is with font choice for your poster; here, you can really play around with some different styles and sizes to emphasise the emotion or reaction you want the viewer to feel. It is still best to stick to only a couple of fonts unless the type is leading the show. Remember, you still need everything to be legible.

Once you have everything in place it is worth printing off a mock up and standing at a distance to check everything works and that the reader will follow everything without any confusion. If the poster needs to contain contact details as a call to action, make sure they are easy to spot.

While modern marketing posters aren’t necessarily done by artists in the traditional sense any more, it certainly helps to think like one to really influence viewers. If you aren’t a budding Toulouse-Lautrec and need a hand, you can discuss your next poster project with us on 01785 225416 or email our in-house graphic designer at


Stone Junction is a cool technical PR agency based in Stafford. We work for all sorts of businesses, with a particular focus on technology, technical and engineering companies. We like being sent cake and biscuits by clients, journalists and prospects.

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