What is a Good Poster?

Roxie Torres Thoreau Poster "It's Not what you look at that matters, it's what you see.
Roxie Torres’ Thoreau Poster (unofficially voted best in show for our class’ first poster assignment)

Friday, we brought in samples of posters. All kinds. A typographic poster, an event poster, a poster which educates/informs, a silk screened poster, a show poster, a interactive poster, a letterpressed poster, I brought one of each as did every other classmate and we looked at them in their respective groups. The posters seemed to fit within their genres because the media informs the poster. Letterpress is constricted by color, often characterized by using the grid and typography. Full-flood and knocked out type are difficult because of how the ink is spread. The informational posters needed the right content and context to seem valuable. They were sanserif mostly and the good ones had intriguing headlines. A good poster surprises you, goes above expectations a little. Expectations change from genre to genre. Expectations and Context: It could be fantastic in the right environment (read: Dentist’s office). Good: utilizing the medium, content and cohesion. Let the image and type interact or inform one another. It helps cement your idea into a full impact.

Interactive Posters

have you seen this dog?
One of my favorite posters.

Interactive is an interesting genre. It doesn’t mean websites, necessarily. The formula for a good interactive poster: good use of material (medium) + idea + expression + interaction. Some interactive posters invite the viewer to take something away (The Most Brilliantly Pointless Street Flyers | Happy Place.) With the evolution of technology, interactive posters are becoming more commonplace (read: QR codes). Sometimes, it’s about having a captive audience. Maybe the poster is on-site, like when you’re waiting at a bus station. An inexpensive dispenser of some kind might be just the hook that makes the brand memorable.

Tell a Story
A poster needs to be engaging. To do that it must be simplified so it gets to the heart of the message quick. Get rid of the stuff that doesn’t tell the story. You are taking your viewer on a little ride, they need to know where to start (1) emotional hook. Get them engaged visually with something striking. A poster that changes a space draws attention to it like a magnet. Try to research where your poster might ultimately be and try to engage the space. (2) Emerging text. Use scale, position, negative space, information hierarchy and consistency to guide them through the piece, telling the story with the punchline at the end. (3) The reward. Bad posters conceptually show too much. When telling your story, a little bit of a missing puzzle piece, something subtle will allow the reader to connect with it as if he or she is laughing along with you in a shared secret. Or something evoking like an ambiguous ending or provoking like a discordant juxtaposition that raises questions.

“When I get an idea I ask myself three questions: ‘Is it beautiful? Is it smart? and does it meet the goal of the end use and the person who pays my bills?'” -Seymour Chwast


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