The Basics

Effective posters have three traits:

  • The information is written clearly and concisely.
  • The information is presented in a way that places the meaning of the text ahead of the style that it is presented in.
  • The poster is displayed in areas that are highly visible.

Readability: Writing Clearly and Concisely

Readability is a function of both information and word selection. Select only the information that is crucial to the meaning of the text, no more, no less. Any word that can be eliminated without negatively altering the meaning of the text should be eliminated.

Posters advertising programs should, in their most basic incarnations, contain the following:

  • The ‘name’ of the program
  • Where the program is being held and at what time.
  • Cost and any other program necessities, if applicable.
  • A brief summary of the program.

Remember that posters serve as a reminder for things that you have presented at floor meetings and shouldn’t serve as a substitute.

Readability for posters that are part of passive programs involves similar considerations. Each page should make one point and one point only, thereby enhancing their comprehension and retention.

Legibility: Simple and Clear Presentation

Legibility is a function of typeface choice and size, image choice, page layout, and paper colour, amongst other things. Ideally, posters should be so simple that people can’t help but read them as they pass by. Most of all, legible posters are easier to make than their cluttered, less legible counterparts. Legibility can be enhanced easily and in many ways:

  • Choose simple sans-serif typefaces. Don’t use decorative typefaces, as they are more difficult to read. Also, do not write in all capital letters as they are less distinct than lower case letters and therefore also more difficult to read. An overview of type:
    • There are three basic kinds of typefaces that you should be considering: rounded, geometric, and modernist, all of which color type differently. Rounded type is friendly, geometric type is professional and warm, and modernist type is neutral.
    • If a typeface is free, it’s probably poorly designed. Don’t use it!
    • If a typeface doesn’t have its own Wikipedia page, it’s probably poorly designed. Don’t use it!
    • Reduce page margins to as small as you can to give you more room on the page. Smaller margins allow for bigger type sizes.
    • In portrait layout you might be able to fit in five lines of text without dramatically reducing legibility. In landscape layout, four lines.
    • The attention-grabbing part of the poster (usually the name) should take up a large part of the poster.
    • Don’t use word art! It’s very difficult to read. Additionally, patterned backgrounds and decorative borders are, for the most part, unnecessary and distract from the message of your posters.
    • Use light colored paper and black text to increase text-background contrast as much as possible. Dark paper washes out the text and colored text blends into the paper because colored toner is opaque.
    • Clip art can be very effective at increasing how well your poster will be remembered when it is used carefully. Use simple line-art that is clearly relevant to the information being presented. If you’re having a hard time finding appropriate clip art for your poster, you probably shouldn’t be including any. Photographs and busy drawings tend to distract from the text, not compliment it.

Poster Placement

An advertisement or program may be well designed but it will do no good if it is never read. Posters should be placed in highly visible high-traffic areas such as:

  • Bathroom doors and stalls
  • Hallway doors leading to the dining hall and building exits.
  • Main building entrances
  • Common areas such as lounges
  • Dining hall walls near registers

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