Poster Design

Good visual designs are based on underlying grid systems that help to provide consistent locations for type and graphic elements, resulting in an ordered, legible design. Combining type and image further expands the building blocks for visual communication. This is true whether a designer is working in a static format (such as a book or a poster), or an interactive format (such as a touch screen or an application interface). These building blocks remain the same whether the goal of a project is to communicate pure information (such as an instructional manual), or to communicate something more emotional (such as Maya Lin's Vietnam Memorial).

In this assignment, students will create a poster for a lecture series that will be displayed in a University student center. Students will use text and images to communicate informational and emotional content.

Your poster will be 11" x 17", vertical orientation. The final poster must be printed on paper (at least 80-lb) at full size and mounted on foam core using spray mount, trimmed flush to the edges of the poster.

Use an underlying grid to create your design. You must use ALL of the text provided. You can select any number of images from the ones provided and treat images in any way you'd like. You may also create graphic elements such as rule lines and shapes. You may explore color, or design in black and white. You may choose your own fonts.

Students will complete this as an individual assignment.

Learning Goals

  • Develop proficiency with using a grid system to organize content for a
    • screen or paper design
  • Understand how font choice and typesetting can affect legibility
  • Work iteratively through sketches and multiple layouts under different constraints
  • Develop a proficiency in laying out type and images
  • Explore the information and emotions that they communicate
  • Learn how to give and receive feedback in a constructive way during critiques


What to do

Utilize all of the text and select from the images provided here. Here's a google folder with the images.

NOTE: You can use any number of images, but you *must* use at least one image.

Stage 1: Produce at least ten sketches of different designs using grid, content, and images. Sketching roughly in pencil is the fastest way to look at a page layout holistically. Choose the sketches that you feel are good candidates for your design, and iterate on these in the form of more, refined sketches. These can either be converging on a single design that will then be iterated on to explore variations on that theme, or they may be diverging designs that you feel both work and want to explore further. In any case, these iterations will then be translated to your Stage 2 digital layouts that will be used/receive feedback for the interim crit—so bear that in mind as you work on them.

Stage 2: Create a document in InDesign, Adobe Illustrator, or Sketch. Your poster size will be 11" x 17" in vertical layout. Use an underlying grid to create your design (you may use a variation on the A1 grid, or find another grid system you feel works for you). Create at least two digital iterations (translating your final sketches from Stage 2). Print out and bring two digital iterations of your poster for the interim crit—Black and white only, full-size paper.

Stage 3: Create at least two digital iterations. Print them out and bring the two digital iterations of your poster for the interim crit—full-color, full-size paper.

Stage 4: Your final design should be printed on 80-lb paper (or greater) at full size (you pay for printing), mounted on foam core (the foam core backing and adhesive for mounting will be provided to you, an announcement will be sent out containing instructions on when and where to mount your final poster), and trimmed flush to the edges of the poster.

For your digital iterations, employ a variety of typefaces and sizes to explore hierarchy. Instead of making one big text box, break up the content and move it around the page. If you are not confident with color, try just using color in the background.

Summary of Stages

Stage 0: Bring four example posters from the world to share (Due 4/9):

  1. easy to understand
  2. visually engaging
  3. hard to understand
  4. not visually engaging

Stage 1: Produce at least ten sketches of different designs using the grid. (Due 4/9)

Iterate on these 10 sketches (Due 4/10)

Stage 2: Two digital iterations of your poster - printed in b/w only (Due 4/11)

Stage 3: Two digital iterations of your poster - printed in full color (Due 4/16)

Stage 4: One final poster design spray mounted (Due 4/18)

Final Deliverables

On Canvas upload a single PDF (named A1-Lastname-Firstname.pdf; eg., A1-Dow-Steven.pdf) with the following content in this order:

  • Title page with your name, pID, date, and email
  • At least 10 sketches (can have multiple on one page)
  • All digital iterations you created in the lead-up to the final design, with labels indicating where in the process they arose (this includes any that you worked on or iterated on after the interim crit)
  • Final poster design

Grading Rubric