Posters: Social Cause

Whether a poster is a promotion for an art exhibit, a musical group, or the voice of dissent, it is common to see one tacked on a wall or framed, hanging in homes and offices alongside paintings, photographs, and fine art prints. no other graphic design format has been so successful in capturing the attention and hearts of museum curators, art critics, social historians, and the public. Some people have extensive poster collections that contain either a variety of posters or a series.

Rosa Veliky
Jillian Gorman
Sydney Utesch

EXERCISE: Catalyst for Change

A graphic design solution can be a catalyst for change. If you had a chance to raise your voice in protest through a poster, what would you protest? War? Child abuse? Pollution? What would you promote? Freedom? Clean water? To whom would you appeal? Select one cause that you deem important.

Start with a blank sheet of paper and complete the following:

➊ At the top of a page, write the name of the cause.
➋ Sketch or write as many objects as you can think of having similarities to your subject. If you’re having difficulty, use attribute listing to help you or treat this as a kind of a Rorschach inkblot test, where you simply sketch the first thing that comes to mind when asking yourself, “What might this remind me of or be similar to?”
➌ Sketch visual metaphors, at least two, for your cause.


Step 1

a. Select a social or political cause. Gather information about it.
b. Find related visuals to use as references.
c. Write a design brief. Define the purpose and function of the poster, the audience, and the information to be communicated.
d. Generate a few design concepts. Concentrate your conceptual thinking on finding a way to prompt people to think about the cause. Select and refine one concept.

Step 2

a. Determine whether the poster should be visually driven or type-driven.
b. Your poster should be able to grab the attention of people walking by.
c. The poster should include the social cause’s web address and phone number so that people can take action.
d. Determine at least three different ways your concept could be visualized.
e. Produce at least ten sketches.

Step 3

a. Produce at least two roughs (In Illustrator/Photoshop) before starting the final comp.
b. Be sure to establish visual hierarchy.
c. The poster can be in either a vertical or a horizontal format.
Optional: Design a companion web banner.

Step 4

a. Refine the roughs. Create one Final comp.
b. The size, shape, and proportion should be dictated by your strategy, design concept, and where the poster will be seen (environment).
c. Use two main colors. Use supplementary colors when you feel it’s appropriate.

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