This unit explains the concept and quality of a poster

Learning outcomes.

By the end of the lesson, learners will be able to:

  • Understand the concept of Poster Design.
  • Explain the Types and Qualities of a good Poster.
  • Discuss types of Signage, Signpost, Signboards, Billboards, Banner etc.


Meaning of Poster

        A poster is a written or printed notice which is posted publicly to communicate with the general public. In other words, the term poster is generic term which is used to describe all forms of outdoor notices and signs. The basic characteristics of posters are that they are produced with materials that can withstand the harsh effects of

atmospheric elements such as rain, sun, smoke, dust, saline etc. for a reasonable period before deteriorating. Posters are usually produced to announce an event, advertise a product, service, organization, warn or direct people an promote a concept or an idea. Posters can be produced on variety of supports such as paper, wood, metal, plastic, fabric cement wall etc. Banner, signposts, signboards, billboards, wall wraps, paper posters etc. are some examples of outdoor posters.


  • Is traced from the C.15th when the renaissance painters used painting, letterpress and intaglio printing processes to produce paper posters (Broadsides).
  • Modern poster design started around 1860 due to the invention of lithography in 1798 in Austria by a Czech called Alloys Senefelder.
  • Jules Cheret was the first person to make posters using lithography in France in 1858 and was called father of modern poster design.
  • Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Alphone Mucha and others joined in the art. Between 1891 and 1899, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec produced a total of thirty (30) posters.
  • Other artists like George de Feure, Eugene, Grasset, Jan Toorop, Koleman Moser, Alfred Roller and Will Bradly joined the race making posters to be everywhere hence the French government passing a law in 1881 for every poster to be registered with a fee and a stamp before it can be posted publicly.
  • The outbreak of the World War 1 in 1914 also elevated poster art to another level where poster was used as a medium of propaganda for youths to joined their national armies.
  • Posters also helped in selling products and services from the industrial revolution era to date.


We have i) Text only Posters, ii) Pictorial Posters and iii) Picture only Posters.

Text only Posters:- They are posters that contain only text with or without a symbol. It contains brief and good spacing texts with simple symbol like arrows at times to avoid cloudiness. The caption or other key words in the poster are emphasized to attract attention.

Pictorial Posters:- They have both text and illustrations in the copy. The illustrations are bigger to occupy much positive space and forms the centre of attraction. Usually, the illustrations are supported with a bold caption and other subordinate texts to help understanding of the message.

Picture only Posters:- They contain only pictures or symbols in the copy. Such posters are often made for famous companies or products and they are often used for repetitive advertising.


  • Posters are often large enough to be read from a distance.
  • They are made of bold or legible type/typeface to ensure attraction.
  • Posters are usually exciting, reasonably colourful and attractive (eye catching).
  • They are often displayed on structures, such as walls, notice boards, pillars, poles, etc. ( They are public-place based).
  • Information on poster is often simple, concise,(definite) brief and clear.
  • Pictorial posters often bear interesting, attractive illustrations or visuals that make them better understood.
  • Posters are often reproduced (printed) in several copies for wide distribution or circulation.
  • Posters must have good or effective layout, to make them more pleasant.


       Basically, posters perform these vital roles in any society;

  1. i) Informing ii) Educating  iii) Advertising  iv) Warning
  • An advertising design or publicity material, a poster is used to advertise products and services. This is possible because a poster carries persuasive message therefore promotes the sale of new products/services.
  • A poster is also used by health-care authorities to inform, educate and warn the public about the outbreak of any epidemics, like cholera, HIV/AIDS, Ebola diseases and any communicable diseases, such as T.B., polio, Avian influenza, etc. Also, about breastfeeding, blood donation, family planning and life-style.
  • Some posters can be used by civil society groups and governments to do advocacy on civil rights and responsibilities of citizens. This is a form of citizenship education on rights, such as rights to justice, freedom, voting, education, information, assembly, etc. and responsibilities, such as patriotism, being law-abiding, paying taxes, caring for the disabled and aged in society, etc.
  • Upcoming social events, like musical entertainments, inaugural ceremonies, dramas, religious seminars, worships, exhibitions, games and sports, etc. are announced or advertised through what is termed subject posters or event posters.



Simple and Brief Message

      The message or caption in a good poster should be simple and definite (precise). Most of it should be in Display Type. Advertising slogans for instance, should be catchy, thought-provoking but straight to the point (precise). Put in another form, a good poster should have the written or printed text in simple and brief language. This is probably, the most important quality in poster design. Copious or ambiguous text may  mislead the public and should be avoided.

  1. ii) Legible text and illustration/graphics

       A good poster should contain readable, clear and bold text/ copy, as well as illustration/graphics which can be easily viewed at a glance. This is even more important in respect of poster headline which should, ideally, provoke curiosity in the target-reader. To achieve clarity, legibility and readability, the artist should adopt good spacing practice and better figure-background colour contrast, among others.

  • iii) Emphasis

Also, a good poster should highlight some (specific) important text/illustration elements for emphasis. This is important for achieving attraction in the poster. Attraction is simply, the qualities in a poster that appeal to and arrests the attention of viewers and eventually compel them to read the information therein. Wrongful or inappropriate highlighting can however result in misinformation.

  1. iv) Effective and creative layout

An ideal poster should have a creative and interesting layout. Layout, is a plan of the organization of text and illustration items in a poster or any other design, to make them visually pleasant. It also means, proper arrangement and spacing of words and picture(s) so that can be read without much effort. A crowded or jammed layout should be avoided.

The five core principles of design, such as page proportion, balance, contrast, unity  and rhythm should be obvious in a good layout.

Attractive text and illustration

An effective poster should combine text with good and vivid pictures/graphics to explain them (words/text). Vivid or dramatic visuals are among the best attention-getters. Simple but attractive pictures/graphics make issues much more easily understood.

Indeed, illustrations, no matter the background of the reader, attract the same interpretation. For this reason, they enhance effective communication. However, illustrations as already noted, must be bold, clear and as far as possible, exciting, so as to leave a lasting impression about them.

  1. vi) Centre of Focus (Focal Point)

Another important quality of an ideal poster is that it should have a centre of focus/focal point. A centre of focus is an item in the poster that attracts the most immediate attention. It should “shout” the most. A centre of focus must be striking or eye-catching and help directthe viewer’s attention to a particular spot/centre of interest. It is arguably the most conspicuous item in the design. Ideally, the centre of focus should be the subject-matter (theme) on which the entire poster is based.

It should form the caption or headline of the poster. A centre of focus can either be illustration or text. No other items in the composition must overwhelm it (focal point).

  vii)   Clear, Familiar Language

          An effective, good poster should be done in a familiar language that the target-group would generally understand, in order to make it functional. This way, it is able to relate closely to the people. A target-group is a group of people that the message or information in a -poster is specifically meant for, so, if the target- group cannot read comprehend the information contained therein, it is altogether worthless.

viii)  Good Colour Scheme

     Colour is probably the most important element in poster design, due to its attractiveness and symbolism. An ideal poster should be reasonably colourful. Brilliant or bright colours create warmth and vibrancy in a poster. They can also be used to lay stress on or emphasize important words/phrases. There should be good colour combination, such as contrasting and harmonious colours combine to push o advance each other, to ensure legibility and clarity. Colours must however , not be too many so as to make the work rather looks clumsy. Also , readers should see visual symbolism in colour application in a poster very clearly.

  1. ix) Familiar Colour

 Colour which the people are familiar with must, as much as possible, be predominant in an ideal poster. This is what is termed, cultural response to colour. Local colour generates a high sense of passion and is more agreeable to people living in a particular geographical area. In Ghana, green, red, yellow and black are much are more popular.

  1. x) Good Spacing      

Finally, a good poster should have design elements or items, ie. text (type) and illustration well-spaced. This ensures much legibility and aesthetics. Both positive space (image area) and negative space (non-image area) should be well-balanced, using a unique layout strategy.



 The term is used generally to describe all kinds of outdoor and indoor sign works. These include signposts, signboards, billboards, banners, paper posters, door labels, notice boards and others.

   2) Signboard:- Example are, Painted signs, Sticker sign Boards (we use manual and digital methods in producing), Perspex signs, Neon signs, Electronic or LED signs, Digital signboards, and Trivision signboards.

   3) Billboard:- Types include, Standard billboards, Super billboards, Spectaculars billboards or bulletins, Wall signs/wall branding and Vehicle Branding.

   4)  Banner:- We have Hand painted/stenciled and Digital banners.

Other signage are Paper Posters, Bus/Transit shelters, 3D displays/replica signs





The stages involved in designing a poster are as follows:

1) Background research

2) Pre-layout planning/Brain storming

3) Idea development and layout planning:

  • Thumbnail sketching
  • Rough layout
  • Comprehensive layout




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