When it comes to design, often less is more. In this article, we explore how to create a minimalist poster and show you visual examples so that you can create one yourself.
Good news: You don’t need frills to drive people to your business. Imagine a busy street or a bustling establishment—you’d want your poster somewhere with lots of bystanders, of course—and a minimalist poster confidently making space in the middle of it all. Are people turning to look? Of course they are.
You can do this for your brand using any of the minimalist principles we discuss in this article. Not only that, we’ve done the work for you and included the templates encapsulating the tips and techniques featured here. Just look for the images labeled edit this design in Canva and pick your favorite.
01. Be clever
Minimalism doesn’t bind you to type-centric compositions governed by the grid. Flex your creative muscles while working on a minimalist piece and come up with creative solutions like the one showcased above.
Use the different design elements you’ve chosen to work with to make a comment on any subject at hand or open up an avenue for creative dialogue. Let your poster be a catalyst for creative conversation and not just a pretty piece.
02. Play with type
Letterforms are magical. They are extremely versatile communication artifacts that can be equally powerful used solo or as a group, arranged into words. This makes them valuable in minimalist compositions, where we aim to communicate with the least number of design elements possible.
Play with letterforms, experimenting with their arrangement and meaning. I work with type often making it difficult for me to see the “A” used in the poster above as anything else. However, as I was writing this post, my mate walked past and had a eureka moment when he discovered the character’s eye was actually a letter.
These small “discoveries” are powerful and memorable. If you incorporate them into your work, your poster will surely stick around your audience’s mind.
03. Create a minimalist illustration
Create a minimalist illustration for your poster by reducing all objects in it to basic, geometric shapes. Above, the designer used a combination of circles and triangles to create a beautiful California sunset.
Cover the entire face of your poster with the illustration or create a series of simple illustrations to work throughout your entire composition.
04. Feature creative text
Don’t limit minimalism to the design of your poster–develop simple and clever copy for it as well. Consider the example above. The poster above features a single line of clever copy: Neue & Impreuved. It is a cleverly designed play on words that touches on Helvetica and caters to a specific audience: type lovers and designers.
In the same way, spice up your poster with creative copy. If you’re still a young copywriter, jot down as many words as you can revolving around your poster’s subject and audience. Don’t give it too much thought, just let your pencil do its thing.
Take a brisk walk and come back to your list. See any interesting relationships? Build a sassy line around them.
05. Use geometric shapes
We’ve all been there. It is the night before a deadline and you’re still staring at a blank page. If you’ve wracked your brains trying to come up with a beautiful minimalist poster but still haven’t arrived at anything awesome, go geometric.
Using your brand colors, create a straightforward abstract arrangement with geometric shapes. Using the grid, throw your copy over it. Sometimes, a simple strategy can yield the most beautiful results, as showcased above.
06. Print on black
Printing on black can help you create an elegant and sophisticated poster your audience will want to hold on to. To add an air of exclusivity, print a limited edition run and number each poster in the series.
I love the simple visual in the poster above for Skellen. The cool color ink glows beautifully on a black canvas. I especially enjoy the lovely detail created by the subtle halftone used to create the sphere in the piece.
Feeling like taking a risk? Consider printing black on black. Use a glossy black ink on a matte black paper to design a special piece.
07. Create a series
Working with a complex subject? Don’t limit yourself to 1 poster–create a minimalist series, like the one above.
You can keep each poster feeling related to each other by creating a template to govern every poster’s design. Consider the example above. Although each poster features a different city and iconic building, they feel part of a family because each content element is in exactly the same place on each poster.
08. Use your grid
I can’t stress this enough: the grid is one of the most powerful tools you can use to create striking minimalist pieces. After you’ve defined the content you wish to feature on your poster, design a grid to help you organize it into a balanced composition.
If you’re afraid your poster will feel bland, add an unexpected twist, like the change in the color bar’s direction in the poster above, to spice your layout up.
09. Build Around Your Product
Shine the spotlight on your product by using a professional product shot as your poster’s main design element. Advertising a service? Select an object that best represents the service you offer and dig up a professional shot of it from the Canva photo library.
Use the photographs elements to build a memorable visual. If you’re not sure what this translates to, check out the poster for Northernmost Cognac above. The warm amber color of the liquor coupled with the already minimal white packaging creates a striking visual that brings the entire piece to life.
10. Aim for balance
Visual balance is key in successful compositions. To achieve it, you don’t have to rely solely on design elements–you can use white space as well.
To help you achieve it, imagine that you’ve split the elements in your composition into 2. Half are placed on one side of a scale and the remainder on the other. If they feel like they’d sit at the same height, you’re on the right track!
Consider the example above. If we placed the pencils on one scale and the white space and copy on the other, they’d feel fairly even.
11. Reference iconic imagery
Call me crazy, but I can’t help but think of the iconic hands in Michelangelo’s The Creation of Adam when I see the poster above. In my head, something about the way the stems curve and reach out to each other is reminiscent of the famous Sistine Chapel image.
I can’t say this was the designer’s intention but, in creatively cropping both fruit elements, he’s conjured up a relationship in my head that’ll surely stick with me.
In the same way, consider creating a parody of a famous painting or image or referencing it in your minimalist poster. It will make your poster all the more memorable.
12. Use letterforms as design elements
The poster above reminds me of a beginner’s exercise I learned in University. For it, we were asked to select 2 or more letters and arrange them inside a square. We were then asked to color in any of the shapes formed between letters. We all arrived at something along the lines of what you see above.
In the same way, you can build a minimalist poster using the technique or by using letters as large design elements. Whenever possible, select meaningful letters or characters, like the numbers in a date.
13. Carefully select your photographs
When selecting imagery for your poster, go for images that help you move towards minimalism and not away from it. Opt for images, like the one above, that don’t busy up your layout.
Whenever possible, go for images with an abstract feel and interesting crops. We know we’re looking at hands when we see the image above. However, the crop, hand position, and beautiful difference in color all help push the image towards abstraction.
14. Powerful Visuals
If you’ve developed a powerful visual, like the one above featured on the poster for the 15th Anti-Racism Festival, you hardly need anything else. Let strong imagery speak for itself and add only the necessary copy at the foot of your poster.
15. Don’t Neglect Whitespace
Keep in mind that the “empty” space surrounding design elements speaks just as much as the elements themselves. It becomes active and can be as communicative as words themselves.
Be sure to carefully balance it, masterfully shown in the poster above, and make sure it is sending a message you’ve internationally created. There is nothing worse than publishing a piece only to realize the negative shape resembles something undesirable.
16. Strong visual contrast
One of the easiest ways you can turn heads towards your poster is by making sure you’ve designed it to feature strong visual contrast. You can do this with color or with plain black and white, as showcased above.
Note also how, instead of using traditional shapes, Jacek Rudzki designed a slick ligature using meaningful numbers.
17. Combine design elements
Add dimension to your poster by intertwining design elements with each other. I normally try to stay away from trends, but the poster above for Ceron Dance School showcases a popular design approach that yields lovely compositions.
18. Go Type-Centric
Let powerful copy take center stage on poster and design around it. You can choose to use bright colors as shown above or you can opt for a beautiful typeface set in traditional black and white. Simple and to the point.
19. Use bright colors
Remember, you’re not limited to muted palettes and white when designing a minimalist poster. Bright colors, like the saturated pink and blue used above, can still be used to create stunning minimalist posters.
20. Create a focal point
Direct your audience’s attention to an important area of your poster by creating a focal point. You can do so using an accent color or by creating strong contrast between design elements on your layout.
To draw the audience’s attention directly to the magazine’s title, the designer set it in white directly over the darkest point in the photograph. Many of the elements, including those in the photographed, are arranged on a vertical axis, helping further direct a viewer’s eye throughout the composition.
You don’t need attention-hogging elements on your design. Most of the time, they take someone’s line of thought away from the main message. And in a world filled to the brim with marketing noise, a chattering, cluttered design probably won’t do any good for your business.
Minimalist isn’t just a fad, it’s a response to that very problem. If you want to get your audience to take notice, you do it by giving them a bit of reprieve in a world full of noise. Use any of the minimalist principles we discussed in this article and you’ll get a poster that magnetizes people in.