How to Design Better Workplace Posters

In a world consumed by communication, it can be challenging to get a message out that sticks. Emails get lost in inboxes, lengthy descriptions are skimmed, and anything on paper is destined to be damaged or lost altogether. Workplace posters are a tried and true—and often mandatory—means of communicating important information to your workforce, so it’s important that they are eye-catching.

How can you make effective posters that grab the attention of passersby? We chatted with Heather McGinnis, Namely’s Senior Marketing Design Manager to learn best practices for workplace communications. Here are her nine top tips:

1. Identify the Poster’s Purpose

Before you even start designing your poster, you should have a clear understanding of what you want to communicate. You can’t squeeze too much detail onto a poster, so you should be able to summarize its core objective concisely. Once you have a clear purpose defined, it’s time to start crafting your message and design.

2. Create a Focal Point

Whether it’s a headline or a compelling image, your focal point is the first thing your audience will see. Using focal points will help draw people in from afar. Even if it’s a simple headline, you can use elements of design to make your poster stand out from a distance.

3. Design for Importance

Use “hierarchy of type,” or a visual arrangement of information in order of importance, to convey your key points. The most important points should clearly stand out from the rest of the text. Ask yourself, what is the number one piece of information we want people to take away? Is it simply an announcement, a date to remember, or a clear action item? Use the pre-established purpose of the poster to guide you in prioritizing your messaging.

4. Stay on Brand

If your company has provided brand guidelines, use these to shape your poster design. Are you using the right typeface? Are you using the right colors? Aligning the design with the overall company brand also validates it as a legitimate and noteworthy workplace communication.

5. Use Color Intentionally

Color is a great way to direct the viewer’s eye to a certain location on the page. However, be careful not to overuse colors. Try to limit your palette to three colors or less—including the background color of the poster! Make sure there is enough of a contrast between the background color and the color of the text so that the information is easily legible.

6. Only Include Essentials

Realistically, no one will stop to read a bulletin for more than a few seconds. Posters are meant to be snippets of information, so keep it simple. Don’t try to squeeze all of the necessary information into a single page. Highlight the important messages, and follow up with details in a different medium (see tip #8).

7. Placement is Key

Where you hang your poster is an important factor to consider. Identify high traffic areas where employees tend to congregate. On the refrigerator, near the break room, or next to the elevators are all potentially great spots. Alternatively, if you have a bulletin board or poster wall, be aware of how you can set yours apart from the rest.

8. Supplement Digitally

Posters are rarely the best way to communicate all necessary information. While they’re great for grabbing attention, follow up with additional details via email, your website, a company presentation, or another channel that employees can refer to later on (like a resources folder on your HRIS). Make sure the design of the contextualizing information matches that of the poster.

9. Scale It Down

The final test to see if your poster is ready for hanging is to try scaling it down to a mini version (maybe business card or index card sized). This will help you understand if your text is large enough, ensure you have a focal point, and give you a feel for how people will experience it from far away.

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