Home Ideas & inspiration Poster Design: Trends, Composition Rules, Typography, Copy

Poster Design: Trends, Composition Rules, Typography, Copy

by Mary Ivanova

Poster Design: Trends, Composition Rules, Typography, Copy

Find out how to use 2019 design trends in poster design, use free templates to create visuals for your campaigns, discover key composition rules to make your poster sleek and effective, as well as ways to create a poster that’s emotionally engaging and memorable.

Even though poster design is an art in itself, unlike other forms of art, a poster has a purpose and a target audience. It also has a very small time window for impact, which means crafting an urgent, compelling call to action is a must.

Everything in your poster – from copy to color scheme – supports that agenda. Let’s look at how you can leverage each element of your poster for a more impactful design.

  1. What makes a poster tick?
  2. How to evoke emotion with your poster
  3. How to make a poster that doesn’t feel dated
  4. Composition rules for posters
  5. How to balance colors, shapes and text in your poster
  6. Text legibility in a poster
  7. How to simplify information for your poster

Standard poster sizes: A4 (8.5 by 11 inches), small (11 by 17 inches), A2 (16.53 by 23.39 inches), medium (18 by 24 inches), and large (24 by 36 inches). Crello offers templates for A2 and medium size poster templates that can be resized to fit your needs.

What makes a poster tick?

Probably one of the key characteristics of a poster that sets it apart from other design forms is that it has to be as visually effective at 50 feet as it is at 5. A lot of people will be looking at your poster from a distance, in passing, while busy handling other things.

In order to deliver your message more effectively, you need to include a few layers to your image: the top layer that’s immediately comprehensible, the middle (that includes more details about your event, product or cause) and the deep layer with all the least essential details.

Top layer

The top layer of your poster includes your key visual – be it text, illustration, photo or other graphic element, your keyword – the name or type of your event, a slogan, or a call to action, and your poster color scheme.

This layer acts as the main attraction to your content as it represents the most essential, trimmed down, bare-bones part of the message. Note that it’s not just the verbal part that has to be included in your poster but also the overall mood/key emotion/general vibe of your upcoming event.

Middle layer

The middle layer of a poster normally features important nuances not seen from afar – visual parts that are of lesser contrast and the text about your event or cause that’s not as large, flashy and concise as your headline.

This layer provides more information about your event, cause or product, further explaining the poster message to anyone curious enough to stop and pay few extra seconds of attention.

Deep layer

In most cases, the deep layer within a poster is just all the fine print that might need to be included, as well as further details about the event or product for those interested in learning more without having to contact the organizers or research the event online.

How to evoke emotion with your poster

How to evoke emotion with your poster

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Since interaction with a poster is so brief, your best bet when it comes to making it the most effective is hoping to evoke a strong emotion. It will prompt your target audience to act or make a decision to attend immediately, instead of appealing to their rational thinking that would require more time and in-depth arguments.

Moreover, your poster has to stand out from its immediate environment. Your imagery is in competition not just with other posters or designs and visuals out there – it’s fighting for attention with everything that surrounds it, as well as all the priorities a random passerby might be preoccupied with at the time. And that’s a big ask of a medium-sized piece of paper;)

How to evoke emotion with your poster

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Let’s look at some of the tools you can use to create a poster that’s more likely to get an emotional reaction from your audience:

  • Make sure poster colors and text convey the same mood, amplifying each other
  • Go for a sense of urgency
  • Use familiar elements – like your brand logo – to leverage the positive emotion of recognition
  • Add a feeling of surprise by using an unusual perspective or angle for your illustration
  • Amp up the contrast both in your color scheme and between the poster and the wall that it’s going to hang on
  • If it fits your content, tell a story or use an expressive portrait
  • Try to use as large an image illustration as possible
  • Make your text is short, readable and to-the-point; or go in the opposite direction with vague, beautiful copy that’s full of metaphors
  • Experiment with scale and triangles – they add movement to the design making it more interesting

By the way, don’t just imagine people glancing at your poster as they rush past it – have a test! Print out your visual true to scale, ideally put it up in one of the projected locations, and assess your design decisions.

Does the design catch one’s eye? Is the message immediately comprehensible? Is there anything missing? Are any elements out of place? Does the font fit the colors? Is the illustration a good choice? Can you make the poster more impactful?

How to evoke emotion with your poster

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Read more tips on awesome poster design in our earlier blog post.

How to make a poster that doesn’t feel dated

If you are not a professional designer yourself, one thing you want to be aware of is how current your design actually is. You don’t want to come out with a dated visual that people will reject just because it feels out of tune with what’s on trend and what has gone out of style.

Keeping your poster in line with the most recent design trends will help it both stand out – because it’s something new! – and at the same time be recognizable, as a trendy design will always appear familiar on some level. What it won’t be though is painfully repetitive, predictable and uninteresting.

Let’s look through the main graphic design trends of 2019 for a quick primer.

Borrowing from art styles past

Every year, and even season, design is getting inspiration from the past art styles – reinventing them to fit the modern day and rethinking ways their signature tools and methods can be used. In 2019, experts expect a domination of Art Deco, brutalist design, retro human illustrations, fused 80s style Memphis, and interpretations of mid-century modern.

Art Deco – 1920s, ornamental and glamorous:

How to make a poster that doesn’t feel dated Art Deco

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Brutalist design – 1951-1975, intentionally bad, self-aware, utilitarian:

How to make a poster that doesn’t feel dated brutalist design

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Retro human illustrations:

How to make a poster that doesn’t feel dated retro human illustrations

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Memphis – a blend of kitsch, Art Deco and Pop Art:

How to make a poster that doesn’t feel dated Memphis

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Mid-century modern – clean lines, vibrant colors, custom illustrations:

How to make a poster that doesn’t feel dated modern mid century modern

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Serifs are back, and the thicker typefaces are dominating the scene:

How to make a poster that doesn’t feel dated serif fonts

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The two key trends in composition are broken grid layouts and open compositions. The idea behind the two is similar – creating the feeling of controlled chaos, where the viewer has to figure out how all elements of the design are connected.

How to make a poster that doesn’t feel dated

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Late last year, Pantone announced Living Coral as the color of 2019:

How to make a poster that doesn’t feel dated living coral

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On the other hand, designer Jon Moore notices that warm, softer palette with ‘cozy’ colors are starting to gain popularity over cold, sterile designs of the past few years. He predicts the trend will take off in 2019:

How to make a poster that doesn’t feel dated

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When it comes to cool recognizable visual tools one can use in a design, 2019 is all about 3D shapes, icon-based take on scenery called isometric designs, modern version of a collage, as well as poly-shape art (technique that involves using gradually toned triangle clusters to create shapes and objects instead of single-tone filling).

This is what an isometric design can look like:

How to make a poster that doesn’t feel dated isometric design

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And here’s an example of the use of 3D technique:

How to make a poster that doesn’t feel dated 3D pattern

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Composition rules for posters

A genre of its own, a poster has certain composition rules that are a variation of the more generalized set of all-purpose composition rules in design. Here are the key points you might want to consider when designing your poster:

  • Establishing visual hierarchy within your image through focus, contrast or size to bring attention to your key focal point first;
  • Using design elements to lead your viewer through the poster, e.g. apparent or implied leading lines or zigzag item arrangement;
  • Placing closely relating items next to each other (the rule of proximity);
  • Including only essential text and limit the number of fonts and colors you are using – they should not be independent elements but an integral part of the big picture as your poster is the big picture;
  • Repeat design elements to bring the feeling of completeness to the poster.

How to make a poster that doesn’t feel dated

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Use our free templates for posters to be sure your design has great composition.

What to learn more about composition? Check out our dedicated composition basics post here.

How to balance colors, shapes and text in your poster

As we’ve discussed above, a poster is the kind of visual that needs to be extremely convincing and concise. The way to achieve that is by, contrary to popular advice, putting all your eggs in one basket.

That’s right, be it a bright color scheme, an intriguing shape, or a meaningful piece of copy – pick one and roll with it. Everything beside your key elements gets a supporting role and should blend in with the background. Don’t let a pretty, but meaningless shape or illustration throw your poster out of balance.

If text is your strongest point – consider going illustration-free, as some of the most praised creations in the category feature no imagery, only text and color.

How to make a poster that doesn’t feel dated yellow

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Another design decision you need to make when it comes to visual balance is whether your poster is going to be:

a) easy to read from a distance


b) an eye-catching, intriguing visual that draws the viewer in in order to deliver the message (that’s not obvious from afar).

If you are confident that your message alone is strong enough to stop the audience in its tracks, go for an easy-to-read design.

If your message requires a little more attention and contemplation to convince the viewer they want in – use an intriguing color scheme, shape or wacky font to grab attention and convey the basic mood of your event or product, but provide details in the middle layer of your design, in a smaller font and with more details.

How to make a poster that doesn’t feel dated

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Text legibility in a poster

Typography is a strong tool to help reflect the character or mood of your event – your chosen typeface can add a serious, fun, fancy, or goofy vibe to your poster. But here’s a pickle – the more expressive the font, the less legible it is.

Text legibility in a poster is a combated issue. Sure, you need the audience to be able to figure out what your message is from afar. Understandably, that requires clean, readable fonts. But sometimes sparking an interest means using an interesting shape or a curious typeface that render your headline practically unreadable, or unscannable at the very least:

How to make a poster that doesn’t feel dated

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Decide your priorities with the poster headline and pick the font accordingly.

How to simplify information for your poster

There are a few recommendations you want to keep in mind when crafting copy for your poster:

  • Make one point per poster
  • Be clear about what’s advertised – an event, a product, a social campaign
  • Lean towards bullet points instead of full sentences
  • Don’t go beyond what, when, where (will take place), and why (attend)
  • Include contact information

If your poster is the sole item of your marketing campaign, include all the basic information about your event on it. But if it’s part of a larger campaign where most of your audience will be exposed to the information about your event or cause multiple times, you can definitely get away with only feature a slogan, a shape or an illustration that reflects the essence of your campaign instead of providing all the information at once.

In the latter case though, your poster needs to be extremely memorable so that your audience is able to connect the emotions they experienced when encountering the poster with other information about your campaign they might see in the future.

While you do need to include contact information on your poster a lot of the time, consider only featuring one means of communication, like a website, email address or a phone number. Feature a QR code or a scannable Instagram Nametag to make interaction with your poster even smoother.

Final thoughts

Designing your own poster can be fun and easy once you learn a few basics, trim down your message to the very essentials and find a template or illustration-font combination that works for your event or cause. Use our comprehensive guide and template selection to make current poster designs for your events and causes and share your work in Crello Users group over on Facebook.

Ready to design?

Create A2 poster Create medium size poster

Creating posters for a classroom? Here’s our in-depth guide. And while you are at it, check these 17 honest posters for painfully familiar awkward social gatherings.

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