80+ Poster Design Tips for Every Occasion

By Sara McGuire, Sep 27, 2016

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Posters are one of the oldest, most tried and true methods of advertising events, introducing products, promoting campaigns, communicating educational information, and more.

That’s because posters are so diverse. They can be designed for web, print or both. You can make them as creative or as classic as you want. The possibilities really are endless!

Because the possibilities are so endless, there is no one right way to make a poster. That being said, there are still design best practices that you should follow. (You have to know the rules before you can break them, after all!)

People use Venngage every day to create awesome posters for their businesses, campaigns, classes and personal occasions. So we decided to take it upon ourselves to write the ultimate, most in-depth poster design guide out there.

In this massive poster design guide, we’re going to cover:

  1. Event Poster Design
  2. Sale Poster Design
  3. Fundraising Poster Design
  4. Social Media Poster Design (Coming Soon)
  5. Educational Poster Design (Coming Soon)
  6. Travel Poster Design (Coming Soon)
  7. Motivational Poster Design (Coming Soon)
  8. Real Estate Poster Design (Coming Soon)
  9. Scientific Poster Design (Coming Soon)

We’re going to be publishing this guide in parts, so check back for updates!

1. Event Poster Design

You’ve got an event coming up that you want to promote. It could be a work party, a professional development seminar, a club event…literally anything. The question is: how do you get the word out there?

Don’t underestimate the power of an awesome event poster. With an eye-catching design and compelling text, you can get people excited about your event.

Look at it the same way you would package a product. Think about how you can communicate the theme and feeling of your event in your poster design.

A good place to start is figuring out the goal of your event poster.

 

Decide what the goal of your event poster will be

Ultimately, all event posters have the same goal: to promote an event. But how you approach that might differ, depending on your event.

Your goal may be to:

  • Show people what they can expect at your event.
  • Make people curious about your event.
  • Recruit people to help run your event.
  • Or even explain the benefits of your event for attendees.

For example, if you’re promoting a fitness class, it might be worth it to explain the benefits of your class. There’s a good chance that not everyone will know what the benefits are, and they may become interested in your class.

Take this yoga class poster, which briefly explain some of the benefits of taking yoga. Icons help illustrate each of the three points:  

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Or take this poster, which explain what yoga is to anyone who might not be completely familiar with it:

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Just remember to keep your descriptions brief and concise. If you want to offer more information about your event, include a URL to your site, or include your contact information.

But what if your goal isn’t to provide all of the information up front? What if you want to build anticipation around your event?

In that case, you may want to withhold certain information from your audience. For example, keeping the location of a mystery, only to reveal it the day before, can make your event seem more exclusive.

Or, if you’re announcing a new product release, you might want to build anticipation around the release by only offering the name of the product and the release day (maybe even just the month and year!). That will help spur conversation around the new product, with people wondering what to expect.
For example, this album release poster offers only the title of the album and the release date:

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Think about how you want to present your event to your target audience and design your poster around that goal.

 

Pick an event poster template

If you don’t have a ton of design experience (or any, for that matter), designing your own poster might be intimidating. That’s why you can save yourself a lot of trouble by starting off with a solid event poster template.

Start by picking a template that will help communicate the goal of your poster. You can do this by looking for a template that reflects the theme of your event, or by picking a template that has the right layout you’re looking for.

Remember, with Venngage, you can customize your template as much as you want, so don’t worry about finding a template that is exactly the right layout (although if you do–perfect!).

It’s a good idea to start with at least a rough draft of what your poster copy will be. That will help you determine what kind of poster layout you should use.

For example, if you know that you want to include 3 points describing what to expect at your event, then pick a template that has 3 points (remember, you can always move widgets in the template around and add more).

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A versatile layout that is easy to customize is to use a background image that fills the poster, with a text box overlaid on top. Like in this job fair poster template:

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All you have to do to customize the template is change the background image and put in your own text.

We’ll get into picking visuals for your event poster in a little bit.

 

Follow a hierarchy of information

What information you choose to include on your poster will depend on the goal of your poster. But if you’re creating a fairly standard poster, it’s best practice to follow a hierarchy of information.

That means that the information on your poster should be read in this order:

  1. The name of your event.
  2. The date and time of your event.
  3. A short description of the event or a catchy tagline.
  4. The location of your event (if you choose to include it).
  5. The name of your company, department, organization, etc.
  6. If necessary, where they can find more information (like a website, social media page or contact number).

You don’t have to put the information in that order. But you should try to steer the reader’s eyes in the order you want to information to be read.

How do you steer the reader’s eyes? Here’s a couple of tactics:

  • Write the name of your event in the biggest font
  • Use icons and images to draw attention to important points
  • Use a bright color for key words

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Pick a color scheme that reflects the mood of your event

Colors affect how we perceive visual content. While the exact science of color psychology is contested, there is no denying that we associate certain emotions with certain colors.

Take the industry and demographic your event is appealing to into account when picking a color scheme. For example, a color scheme using plenty of blue is a safe bet for a business event. A study of the world’s top 100 brands found that most brands use blue.

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Meanwhile, it makes sense for a poster for an art event to be bursting with bright, contrasting colors to reflect creativity:

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If the event calls for it, you may even choose to go without colors. Take this poster for a black and white holiday gala that uses–you guessed it–a simple black and white color scheme to achieve a classy effect:

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In certain cases, the color scheme you should use will be obvious. For example, if you’re creating a poster for a fall-themed event, then a color scheme of warm oranges, browns, and yellows will evoke the feeling of fall.

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The same goes for most holiday event posters, like Christmas, Valentine’s Day and Halloween.

Here’s an easy color design hack:

Use a semi-transparent color swatch to overlay a color over a background image. Not only does this allow you to customize your design, it also helps prevent your background image from drowning out your text.

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In Venngage, you can create this effect by dragging a colored square icon onto the canvas, and stretching the square to cover the image. Then, adjust the transparency of the square using the color picker tool.

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If you’re not sure where to start when it comes to pairing colors, a color scheme generating tool like Coolors can be helpful.

 

Pick decorative fonts that reflect the theme of your event

Fonts play an important role in how effectively your designs communicates your message.

Think about it: are you going to bother trying to decipher text in a hard to read font? Probably not, right?

Fonts also help communicate the theme and mood of your event. Similar to picking a color scheme, it’s also helpful to take your target audience into account when picking fonts.

In general, serif fonts have a classic and fancy feel because they have those little line embellishments. They could work for an arts event, or a dinner party, or a wedding shower, for example.

Take this poster example, which use serif fonts to give your poster design a folksy feel:

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Meanwhile, sans serif fonts are fonts sans the serif embellishment. They tend to have a more minimalist and efficient feel. That’s probably why they’re more commonly used in tech-related content.  

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You would probably rather use a sans serif font for an event like a business conference, like in this poster:

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You can also pair a couple of different fonts on your poster. In fact, picking a more decorative font for the header and combining it with a more minimalist font for the body text works very well.

Take this poster example, which tastefully combines three different fonts:

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As a general rule of thumb, use no more than three different fonts on your poster. Too many different fonts can make your design look cluttered.

 

Pick compelling icons and images

To attract the attention of your audience, your event posters need to be visually stunning. Often, what will grab their attention is a beautiful, eye-catching image.

The image you choose should be unique. If it elicits an emotional response from readers, even better. In most cases, you will want that emotion to be joy, excitement, or anticipation.

A good photo will typically have a light, bright color filter to give readers a happy feeling. Dark color filters are generally associated with negative feelings and may undercut the excitement of, say, a fundraiser or symposium.

There are, of course, exceptions to that rule, so pick an image that makes sense for your event!

For example, this poster for a cooking class uses a beautiful and enticing picture of tomatoes as a background image. Foodie culture is huge and people interested in food are sure to be enticed by the promise of learning to use beautiful ingredients like this:

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You can use the semi-transparent shape hack here as well to help your text pop from the background image, without obscuring the image completely.

Whatever you do, avoid cringey stock photos and clip art. Unsplash and Pexels are both great sites for finding beautiful, not cringey stock photos.

Icons are also the perfect way to enhance your poster design. You can use icons to embellish points and, in certain cases, replace text. They’re also great for illustrating ideas.

For example, this open house poster uses icons to replace the names of social media platforms to save space and make the design more interesting:

poster designWhen it comes to picking icons for your poster, keep these best practices in mind:

  • Pick icons with a consistent style (line thickness, flat or illustrated design, line art or filled).
  • Use icons sparingly and allow for plenty of whitespace to let your design breathe.
  • If you do replace text with icons, make sure that the meaning is very obvious (for example, replacing the word “Twitter” with a Twitter icon).

 

Optimize your poster for print

If you’re planning on printing out your poster, there are some basic guidelines you should keep in mind.

Visualize where you will pin up your poster

You probably have an idea of where you’re going to pin up your poster. Where you decide to pin it up can help you make a few design decisions.

If it’s going on a wall with a bunch of other posters, print your poster in a larger size so it will stand out.

If it’s going on a relatively bare wall, print it in a smaller size and pin up a bunch of them to create impact.

Design your poster for a standard paper size

Unless you want to create a big poster, you probably don’t want to spend the money on getting it printed. You can print it yourself by simply designing your poster to fit standard A1-A5 printer paper.

Use CMYK colors

Certain colors won’t turn out right when printed. I know, frustrating! That’s why it’s important to use the right color palette from the get-go, so you don’t get attached to a design that won’t translate properly to print.

CMYK colors stands for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and blacK. Printers use CMYK colors so to ensure that your poster looks the way you intended it to, design your posters for print using CMYK in the first place.  

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Do you see the difference between the two color wheels? Look closely.

Choose a font that’s easy to read from far away

I know you may be tempted to use Comic Sans for a poster advertising a staff party but please, restrain yourself. You’re a professional. Also, it’s probably a good idea to hold yourself back from using particularly flamboyant script fonts, since they’ll be hard to read from a distance.

For example, this poster uses Paytone One, size 200 points for the header. The body text is sized at 24 points:

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Size the body text of your poster between 24 – 48 points. If it’s too small, people won’t be able to read it from a few meters away and will probably not pay attention to it.  

Export in the right resolution

Blurry pictures are annoying and can be easily avoided by simply exporting your poster in the right resolution. Export in a 300 dpi resolution so that the image won’t come out blurry.

Set bleed marks

“Bleed” in printing is when you have an image or object touching the edge of the page. When you design a poster with an image that is flush with the edges of the poster, your printer will automatically leave a thin white line around the edge of the paper.

When your document has bleed, it needs to be printed on a larger sheet of paper than the design, and then trimmed down to your intended dimensions.

To print your poster so that there is no white margin around the edge, set crop marks. These will designate where the design ends on the page, so that you can crop the poster after you print it.

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Design your event poster for web

There are fewer restraints when designing a poster for web than for print. This is a great opportunity to do something really fun with your design. Still, there are some guidelines you should follow.  

Optimize your poster for a specific social media platform

If you want your poster to look really good on social media, size it for the specific platform you’re promoting it on. You may want to make a couple of different versions of your poster for different platforms.

In general, a portrait orientation looks best for mobile viewing. People are used to scrolling up and down on mobile, rather than side to side.

But if you’re promoting your event on Twitter or Facebook, banner generally fit better on their newsfeeds. In that case, a landscape orientation is fine.

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If you’re planning on sending your poster out in an email, a 1080 x 1080 dpi square poster is a safe bet. These dimensions also apply to posters created for Instagram.

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When designing posters for social media, use big, bold fonts. Keep in mind that the image is going to be small in people’s feeds, especially if they’re viewing it on mobile.

Use big fonts that will grab their attention and keep the amount of text you use in general to a minimum. You can always link to an event page!

 

2. Sale Poster Design

So you have an exciting sales event that you want to promote.

You could run out into the streets and scream about it at the top of your lungs…

 

But I wouldn’t recommend it. Instead, make an awesome sale poster and use that to get the word out. (Most of us aren’t skilled actors like Tobias Fünke anyway.)

Sale posters can grab your audience’s attention and sparking their interest. You can send them out in an email newsletter, share them on social media, and print them out for some old fashioned distribution.

A lot of the best practices covered in the event poster section apply to sale poster design as well, but there are some specifics tips you should keep in mind.

 

Keep your sale poster text minimal and concise

Focus your poster text on the what, the when and the where.

A lot of sale posters you’ll see out there put the emphasis on how much prices are reduced by. That’s because in most cases, the goal of a sale poster is to let people know exactly what you’re offering them.

Let your audience know what the sale is:

  1. By telling them how much of a discount you’re offering,
  2. by telling them what products will be on sale,
  3. by telling them how long the sale will run for,
  4. or all of the above!

You probably won’t have enough space to include much for information than that.

For example, take this sale poster that tells people what you are offering (free delivery) and for how long (2 days only):

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Anyone who is interested can either scroll down on the page/email to read more information, or click through to your site.

A quick note on whether you should use percentages or dollar amounts in your posters:

Anecdotally, some people have found percentages perform better, while others have found that dollar amounts perform better. What some experts have found is that the success of one over the other really has more to do with which is perceived to be a higher value.

So if you feature “$50 OFF” in your poster, there’s a good chance it will perform better than saying “$15 OFF”. But if you advertise a big percentage like “50% OFF”, there’s a good chance people are going to be interested!

 

Include high quality product photos

The quality of your product photos will directly impact how the quality of your products are perceived.

It makes sense when you think about it. After all, if a company were to send you a newsletter with blurry product shots, how likely would you be to think it’s spam and delete it?

Yeah, I would do the same.

So when we’re talking about high quality product shots, what does that mean? Well, here are some tips to get you started:

  1. Use shots of your product on a white background to emphasize the quality of your product.
  2. Use shots of your product in context (for example, a watch on someone’s wrist or a pie on a kitchen counter).
  3. Use scale shots of your products so people have an idea of how big they are.
  4. Use group shots of products together to encourage people to buy multiple products.
  5. Use detail shots to emphasize particular features of your product.
  6. Use packaging shots to tap into the excitement of unwrapping a new purchase.

Shopify has a great guide for how to take good quality product shots for cheap: here.

For example, here’s a simple sales poster that I received in an Indigo newsletter:

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The pretty stationary shots on a simple dotted background make for a pleasing, minimalist poster design. As someone who loves stationary, I admit it–I clicked.

Another approach is to use your products as a background image and overlay your text on top.

You see this a lot in fashion sale posters. For example, take this poster from Zara:

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This is an example of a sale poster that uses a shot of their product in context. Their audience can look at the model wearing the jacket and picture themselves wearing it.

 

Incorporate your branding in your sale poster

It’s important to use consistent branding across all of your visual content in order to grow your brand recognition.

If you’re advertising a sale event, it’s kind of a given that people need to know what your business is!

It’s good practice to include your logo on the poster. You don’t have to make that the focus–just include it along the top of bottom of the poster.

For example, here’s a Black Friday sales poster we’ve used in the past:

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See the little Venngage logo at the bottom? It by no means distracts from important information, but it lets people know who is putting on this event. This is particularly useful if you want to share your poster on social media, where people might not immediately look at the name of your account in their newsfeed.

This sale poster example also uses Venngage’s brand shade of blue. Use your brand colors to make your sale poster design consistent with your other visual content.

(Psst! Venngage’s Business plan includes a brand kit that you can use to save your brand color schemes, logos, and fonts to make designing branded graphics even easier. Ok, shameless plug over.)

 

Optimize your sale poster for social media and email

Odds are, most people are going to find out about your sale online (if you’re an ecommerce site, that’s a given). Plus, you may want to run ads on social media featuring your sale poster.

The best practices for poster sizing I talked about in the event poster section apply here as well. Depending on the social media platform you want to advertise on, you may want to adjust the dimensions of your poster accordingly.

These are the ideal dimensions for each of the big social media platforms:

Facebook: 1200 x 627

Twitter: 440 x 220

Instagram: 1080 x 1080

Pinterest: You have more wiggle room here for length, but pin widths are 238 px.

Optimizing your sale poster for each social media site will ensure that none of your poster gets cut off and that it is readable.

For example, this coffee sale poster would work well for Twitter:

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Or take this Black Friday sale poster is perfect for appearing in an Instagram feed:

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The earlier tip to keep text concise is particularly important when we’re talking about social media posters. Because people are probably going to be looking at them on their phones, the images are going to be small.

Use big, bold text that people will have no trouble reading. Posters are the a rare opportunity where you can use a really funky font and not have it look super tacky.

The fonts you use are a central part of your poster design. Fonts can be a decorative as they are functional.

 

Include a call-to-action

Ideally, people who come across your sale poster online are going to click through to your site to check out your awesome deals. So why not give them a little boost by including a call-to-action (or CTA) in your poster?

A CTA will prompt people to take the next step towards making a purchase. Usually, a CTA is a simple action phrase, like in this poster example:

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“DON’T MISS OUT!” at the bottom of the poster will encourage people to act now.

You could even go ahead and add an actual button that people can click to take them to your site. This is common in sale posters that are included in email newsletters.

Take this poster, which uses a “SHOP NOW” button to prompt people to click through:

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It’s human nature: we see a button, we want to press it.

Now, you might be wondering: does it matter what color I make my CTA button?

You’re going to hear different opinions about this, depending on who you talk to. Ultimately, though, how well your CTA button converts has more to do with how well the CTA button stands out from the rest of your poster than the specific color.

If you’re going to use a CTA button, use a bright color that contrasts with the background color.

Here’s another poster with a green CTA button, this time on a white background:

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And here’s a poster with a black button on an off-white background:

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Use a dark/bold colored button on a light background, and use a light colored button on a dark background. You shouldn’t have any problems.

 

Make your sale poster a GIF

You know how your cat or dog will suddenly jolt into rapt attention when they see movement? People aren’t all that different.

Turning your sale poster into a GIF is a great way to grab for your audience’s attention and to make your promo more fun.

Take a look at this sale poster that LOFT sent as part of an email campaign:

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How to create a sale poster GIF:

1. Create several versions of your poster with slight variations

For example, you could change the position of icons or text (like how the watermelon seeds move like raindrops in the LOFT poster).

Here are two versions of the same poster, where the candy cane icons are moved slightly.

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The result will be a poster with dancing candy canes!

You could also change certain colors in your poster.

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2. Export your images as PNGs

Download each version of your poster as a separate image. Then you can string them together to create a GIF.

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3. Use a GIF maker to compile your images into one GIF

There are free online tools that you can use to create your own GIFS. Giphy is one example (I used it to create the example poster GIFS!). You could also use GifMaker.me or EZgif.

And voila! Two fun GIF posters:

 
 

3. Fundraising Poster Design

Now, let’s turn to a more altruistic type of poster: the fundraising poster. These are posters that non-profit organization, schools, or companies use to raise money for a charity.

Typically, fundraising posters advertise for a charity event, or an event supporting a local organization like a club or school program. But they can also be used to grow brand awareness for non-profit organizations.

As with any type of poster, general poster design best practices apply. But there are specific tips you should keep in mind when designing a fundraising poster.

Consider your target audience

People donate to certain causes because they’re passionate about them.

Think about who is likely to be most passionate about your cause and try to design your fundraising poster to appeal to them.

For example, say you’re advertising a fundraising event an animal rights charity. Animals lovers are the people who are going to be passionate about supporting your cause.

This poster explains how donations to the charity will be distributed to help dogs’ health:

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Dog owners will know how much is costs to maintain a dog’s health, and they are likely to sympathise with the cause.

Or take this meme-able poster that will appeal to the hearts of cat lovers:

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This poster uses a bold, bright pink font that contrasts with the green background. It’s tacky and weird–and people who like looking at cats on the internet will love it for that.

Depending on the mood of your fundraising event, don’t be afraid to get silly with your poster design.

After all, if people are excited about your event (as cat lovers are sure to be when they see this amazing poster), they are going to be more likely to want to participate!

Identify the problem you want to solve in the poster header

In most cases, it’s best to be upfront about the cause your charity is trying to support. After all, the purpose of a fundraising poster is to convince people to donate money to a cause.

People are often distrustful of charities. They want to know that their money is going directly towards solving a problem they care about.

Poster headers are meant to grab the attention of someone walking by, or scrolling through their newsfeed, or flipping through their emails.

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Because you have limited space on your poster, visuals are the perfect way to pack more information into one page.

Icons, illustrations, and charts can be used to show shocking statistics, examples of concepts, and success stories, and other information that will help paint a clearer picture for your audience.

For example, this poster for Charity: Water uses icons to show examples of how clean water makes a big impact on communities:  

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Icon design hack: group icons into a shape for a detailed illustration. Use icons that are a similar style to create a cohesive, uncluttered design. For example, the poster above uses only flat icons with similar line widths.

Identify reasons why people should donate

Of course, you don’t have room on a poster to make an in-depth case for your charity. But, at the very least, you should be able to summarize a few of your charity’s major goals or strategies in a few sentences.

Offer some eye-opening statistics. Numbers can put a problem into perspective. Include statistics that are likely to hit close to home for readers. For example, the number of people who suffer from a certain illness, or how little money people in a community make.

This blood drive poster lists five statistics that may be surprising to a lot of readers:

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Emphasize important numbers by combining a neutral or grayscale background with pops of color. The poster above uses red circles to make the statistics stand out.

Here’s another poster examples that uses the same information but with a different, more minimalist design:

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The benefit of the second design is that it places greater focus on the CTA button. I’ll get into that in more detail shortly.

Numbers can also be used to convince people that your organization or charity is one they can trust.

Highlight how your organization has helped already. Donors will want to know that they can trust your organization to put their money to good use.

If you’ve had achievements in the past, you could include them on your poster to show people that your organization is serious about making an impact on your cause.

You could show a particularly impressive dollar amount that your organization achieved. For example, take this poster that highlights the amount of money invested in reducing poverty in the current year:

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If you’re advertising a yearly fundraising event at your workplace, you could highlight the amount of money you raised last year. You could also count the number of people you helped.

For example, this whimsical poster for a charity that funds school libraries boasts the number of books schools they funded in a year:

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Venngage’s icon library contains plenty of illustrations you could use to give your poster a whimsical design!

Use pictures of real people

Particularly pictures that show people’s faces. A study published in the Journal of Risk and Uncertainty found that people are more likely to want to make a charitable donation when the pleas feature one identifiable beneficiary.

When you show a real person in your poster, you help concretize the problem that needs to be solved.

For example, this poster by Oxfam identifies gives a name to the beneficiary pictured:

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This puts a real person in the minds of potential donors.

Include a clear call-to-action

Once you have someone’s attention, you need to make it very clear what their next steps are to help.

This could be as simple as writing “Donate Now”, but you could also get more creative with your CTA.

For example, the Oxfam poster in the previous section not only includes the URL to where people can go to donate, it also emphasizes the campaign’s slogan: “Close the Gap”.

Including a campaign slogan on your poster is an effective way to reinforce your message. If it stick in readers’ minds, they’re more likely to consider donating.

You can also include a CTA button. Just how you could a button on a sales poster, CTA buttons are equally effective when used in fundraising posters.  

Remember, your CTA button should contrast with the background color of your poster so it pops out at readers. Like the bright green CTA button in this poster:

poster designMake your fundraising event seem fun

You might be raising funds for a serious cause, but that doesn’t mean that people shouldn’t have fun helping out! If you’re hosting an event to not only raise money, but also to build a community, then highlight the community aspect in your fundraising poster.

Use your poster design to give people an idea of how much fun they’ll have helping out. You can do this by:

  • Listing the fun activities your event will include.
  • Showing pictures of past events.
  • Featuring any rewards people will receive for participating.
  • Listing accomplishments that your community has achieved in the past.

For example, this bright and cheery fundraising event poster explains what the campaign is, and the steps participants need to follow to participate:

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You don’t have to rely on a dark and somber color scheme. The color scheme you choose should reflect the mood you want your poster to convey.

  • Dark color palette can help communicate the gravity of an issue and evoke feelings of sadness and sympathy in your audience, which can encourage them to want to contribute.
  • But bright and cheery color schemes are eye-catching and can encourage your audience to want to participate in solving a problem. People often appreciate a positive perspective!

Think about who you want to reach with your fundraising poster and what you want your audience’s primary response to be.

Get those creative juices flowing!

A poster is the perfect opportunity to get really creative with your design. Remember: even if you don’t have any design experience, you can start with a poster template. Then, customize your design to really make your event stand out.

Next time we’ll walk you through how to create a social media poster, so check back soon!

 

About Sara McGuire

Sara McGuire is a Content Editor at Venngage. When she isn't writing research-driven content, she enjoys reviewing music and hitting up the latest culinary hot spot. Follow her on Twitter @sara_mcguire