In rural communities, it seems that non-profit organizations rely almost solely on posters as the main driver of their marketing campaigns. In the marketing world, posters are the bottom of the barrel marketing material. Overall, they do little to sell your event and at their best, they act as a reminder for those who have seen your event in other places.
As an avid community volunteer, I absolutely understand the rock and the hard place that local non-profit organizations are stuck between. You are hosting events to raise money to operate. You have little funds available to begin with, and marketing is expensive. Posters are cheap and easy enough to create and print at home.
So, while I hate posters, I mean I physically cringe whenever anyone says that their entire marketing plan will rely solely on posters, I do understand the need.
All hating aside, we can all do better when it comes to making posters. You don’t need to be a graphic designer or have fancy, expensive software to create a poster that will be seen.
The following information is meant to help all non-profits build better posters and use the information on them in a variety of ways to help you promote your event. I am using Canva, a free online tool that gives anyone the ability to design beautiful advertising materials. So, for the love of Pete, if you are going to use posters as the main driver of your marketing campaign, please close the Word document and develop your material using an interface that is meant to create promotional materials.
Every Poster has Four Key Parts
In order to design a great poster that attracts attention, make sure you understand each part of the poster:
The Headline – This is the part of the event poster that should grab the viewers attention and immediately identify what the event is. Your event title should be short. If you have a long event title, break it down using different font sizes to attract viewers attention to the absolute keywords, for example:
The Body – is the part of the poster that should advertise your message and event. This is where you will give the key details – and I do mean only the key details. Including too much information in the body of the event poster will cluster the message and make it hard for viewers to understand what is happening. Highlight the key points to entice viewers and create interest in your event.
The Signature – is where you contain all other relevant details. Notice I said contain. All too often, the information that belongs in the signature area of the poster is scattered throughout the poster, making it difficult for views to locate these important details. If you’ve done your job correctly, you will have already enticed the viewer to seek out these details, so they don’t have to be in large bold text or take up a lot of space when you have limitations, to begin with. The information to include in the signature area is as follows:
- Contact information such as address, phone number, email, social media pages (often done with logo icons), website, hours of operation.
- Sponsor Logos – at the very bottom underneath the contact details. Depending on what commitments you have made, listing your sponsors in text form, rather than displaying logos, often works best, especially when dealing with the 8.5 x 11 formatting that many local organizations choose to use for poster designs.
The Image or Graphic – using the right image or graphic is key. This works in conjunction with your header – catching people’s attention and making them look at the rest of the information you are providing. So please, for the love of Pete, stop using clip art! It was amazing in the late ‘80s but now it’s just dated and old. You can find tons of free, usable images and vectors online that offer so much more for presentation than clip art. Check out our article, Step Up Your Game with Royalty Free Images for a list of free resources!
The Planning Process
Step 1: Choose an Effective Poster Size
My husband is always telling me that size doesn’t matter, but I beg to differ. Often when I am designing posters for local groups, I will develop the same poster in a series of sizes from 8.5” x 11” to 11” x 17”. You need to consider where you will be placing your poster, and bigger doesn’t always mean better, it means more complicated to hang up and display. Think of the locations where you will be pinning your posters. Local community bulletin boards are generally loaded with papers and, as I have learned if you want to stand a chance of not being covered up, choose a smaller poster size. If local businesses will be helping you advertise by displaying your posters in storefront windows, or on dedicated wall space, a bigger size is better as they will control the display.
Step 2: Decide on the Key Details and Message
Before you even open your blank document, you should know what information should be on your event poster. Broken down into the four key parts, you may be including the following details:
Call to Action
Social media icons
Hours of operation
Image or Graphic
No Clip Art
Step 3 – Choose the Right Image
Most great ads are simple and in the grand scheme of things, your event poster is an ad. Too many images will overwhelm the viewer and using a bad image generally means that it will go unnoticed by your intended viewer. Your image(s) should help you sell your event and even help you eliminate text from the poster because you can visually showcase parts of your event instead. For example, if you have many different activities planned, try using images instead of text to showcase them. There are tons of great resources out there for Royalty Free images you can use, so put the clipart away and check out these great sources for images you can use to design all of your advertising needs!
Step 4 – Choose the Right Colours
Colours are important because they will help set the mood. Pick colors that will work with your main image, and together. Don’t go crazy with the colours either – this is not kindergarten and too many colours will overwhelm your intended audience. Three to four colours is more than enough.
Step 5 – Use a Readable Font
I know all those scripted fonts look pretty, but most of them are illegible. This is probably the worst thing I see in community posters. Worse than using a scripted font as the main font, is doing it in all caps – oh my goodness, the complete and utter mess that makes reading impossible. The point of a poster is to deliver information – why in the world would you want to make that difficult by using a text that cannot be read? There are thousands of fonts to choose from please, pick one that people can read with ease. If I have to stand there scratching my head, I’m just going to stop reading. Fonts can be another great way to separate information on your poster, but again limit the number of fonts you use to 2 to 3. If you are looking for some great new fonts to add to your collection, check out 1001 Fonts.
Now that you know all the do’s and dont’s of creating a poster, it’s time to start the design process. Because you already know everything that should be on your poster, this should be the simple part of the process.
The Design Process
Step 1 – Start with the Images
When designing my posters, I like to start with the image. Placing your images into the layout first will help direct all other parts of the design and help develop the flow of information that needs to be added.
Step 2 – Add the Headline
Working with your images, add the Headline components. Your headline does not need to be at the top of the poster, so don’t feel confined to this space. Make your Headline stand out wherever it is on the page by having your Headline Event Title in the largest text size you will be using. Calls to Action or the key message/tagline should be close to the Event Title, but separated by using a smaller text size and, should you choose, even a different font or font colour.
Step 3 – Add the Body
As concisely as possible, begin adding the body information. This does not need to be full paragraphs, just the key details, preferably listed together. If you jumble your information all across the poster, some details may be lost or unnoticed by the intended viewer.
Step 4 – Add the Signature
The signature information is tertiary information on a poster because if you have done your job correctly, you have enticed me with your Image(s), Headline, and Body and now I am seeking out these additional details. The signature text can be small and take up a minor portion of your poster, allowing you to use the space wisely to get me interested in attending your event. You need to use your poster space to sell intended viewers on the idea of attending your event, not contact you or visiting your website.
As you can see, there is quite a bit more to creating a poster than simply slapping some images and text together. It is going to take a little bit of time to get things right but when your nonprofit organization is relying on a poster to act as the main driving force behind your marketing campaign, taking the time to do it right will pay off in the end with higher attendance levels.