It might sound somewhat simplistic, but the point of a poster is to leave a message in the mind of the person who sees it – and to do it quickly, because posters are generally competing for attention somewhere outdoors and people will only see them for a few seconds if at all.
It’s worth remembering this because it reminds us that, as nice to look at as they may be, lots of posters are simply too complicated to be effective. Especially posters with lots of text are often trying to transmit too much information in the wrong context. Most posters need some written information, of course: you need to tell people what you’re advertising is called, or will want to tell them do something – but there is so much as too much of a good thing.
So the most memorable posters usually have words, but not too many. And when there aren’t that many words, you can start to think more about how each of these words are presented: and that’s when you’ll start thinking about what is called typographic poster design.
You can use the typeface of words on your poster to pack a lot of information into a small space: the way your words look can underline (or undermine) their meaning, offer other interpretations, or simply make them attractive.
There are very few rules to typographic poster design, but it’s generally the case that, with less text, each single word can become bigger and bolder: that means thicker rather than thinner typefaces, and lots of block capitals. What also works well with lots of short words is to provide each word with a line of its own. And finally, don’t be afraid to adapt or change individual letters – if you do it in an unexpected or unusual way, it can look striking and attract attention. Or simply use some of our free fonts to create your masterpiece.
The New York poster is a great example of all of this at work: one word per line, single letters featuring typical New York architecture and a nice in-joke using a “Big Apple” for an O. Also, the very style of the typeface is a play on the house font of New Yorker magazine, which is sure to attract attention.
All of these designs are striking and make typography into a popular art form. Why not start thinking about what features of your message, product, or idea you can build into the actual type you use?