Taking responsibility for the publicity for any music group is a big undertaking. Chances are you’ll need to be promoter, press officer, social media whiz, web master and graphic designer.
Here are my eight top poster design tips to help non-designers create posters and fliers.
Work out what you like and what you don’t like
While plagiarism is obviously a big no-no, there is absolutely nothing wrong with looking at other people’s designs online and getting ideas from them. Search for posters for all sorts of different events and download some that you like and some that you don’t like, then do some quick analysis.
Your preferences may be down to colour, how much (or little) is on the page, use of fonts, particular types of images or effects etc. As you go through this process you’ll find that you start to formulate some poster design ideas of your own.
Keep your poster design simple
It’s very tempting to throw everything at a page in the hopes that it will be ‘eye-catching’ and therefore attractive. However, chances are it will just confuse people, and your main message will fail to make itself heard.
Sketch out some simple designs and page layouts first, no matter how roughly. Keep your word count down and use images sparingly. If you’re performing a Remembrance Day concert, for instance, something as simple as the silhouette of a single poppy as the backdrop could be really effective.
Prioritise your information
In design speak this is called ‘hierarchy of information’ or ‘visual hierarchy’. Put simply, it means giving prominence to the most important information so that people can scan it and understand what it’s all about. On a concert poster, for instance, the style of music being performed almost certainly trumps the venue details, and in turn, the venue details almost certainly trump the ticket prices.
Use the same font, in the same colour, at the same size for headings. Use the same font, in the same colour, at the same size for body text. Decide whether your bullet point lists will start with capital letters or not, and stick to it – don’t mix and match. Use the same bullet point wherever you use bullet points. You get the gist…
Stick to one or two fonts
It’s perfectly fine to use a couple of different fonts: one for headings and sub-headings and another for body text, for instance. Rein it in after that and remind yourself of the points above about simplicity and consistency.
As a general rule of thumb, avoid using Comic Sans, Curlz and Papyrus. They are over-used, often used inappropriately, and will do you no favours. There are many other fonts to choose from, even if you’re limited to the ones on your computer.
Stick to a defined colour palette
If you don’t have a specified colour palette already, choose around three or four colours that complement your logo and use those consistently across your materials, including your poster design.
There are lots of online resources to help you choose colour combinations such as color.adobe.com.
If you’re placing text over coloured backgrounds or images, make sure there is contrast between the two so that the text clearly stands out.
Avoid using clip art
Clip art is, by definition, not unique, and therefore can only reflect your message or values in a very generic way. To be frank, it looks unprofessional.
If you think the answer is a quick Google image search then think again. Use an image that you’ve found in this way and you could be in breach of copyright. It is also unlikely to be of good enough quality for anything other than on-screen use.
Here are some alternatives:
- If you have them (and they are of decent quality) use your group’s own photos. These have the advantage of being both unique and authentic.
- Use simple shapes such as speech bubbles, circles or boxes to house text or images, breaking up your page.
- Search Creative Commons photo libraries such as pexels.com or unsplash.com.
- Buy a few stock images (this could be photographs, illustrations, icons or even patterns) but make sure they are truly relevant to your group or concert theme.
Ask someone else to review your work
We all make mistakes. We all edit things and accidentally leave remnants of the original behind to show us up and annoy us. We all get too close to a piece of work and can’t ‘see’ it anymore.
Enlist someone to proof-read for you and also to proof the visual elements. If possible, also test your poster design out with members of your target audience to check it’s hitting the right note (no pun intended!)
Grainne Slavin is a professional graphic designer who leads design service company Platform 74