Need to get attention with signage for your event or small business? Take inspiration from the bold, simple, and eye-catching designs of WPA posters from WWII.
The Posters of the WPA: Simple & Effective Signage Ideas:
It’s amazing how these WPA posters, like the government propaganda posters of the same era, can convey a strong message with only a few words and a single image.
A number of them will even ask the viewer a question to hook them. “Are YOU helping?” Maybe you can do the same to potential customers. (Who wants a TACO?!)
Whether you are printing a banner for a trade show, advertising a grand opening, or printing a poster to advertise an art show, I think you can take inspiration from the poster designs of the WPA:
About Works Progress (WPA) Administration Posters:
From 1936 until 1943 the WPA commissioned about 2000 different posters to publicize events, community activities, and health & education programs in 17 states. This government program to support the arts created a massive amount of bold, creative, and effective signage which can still inspire our own marketing efforts today.
Tip: Printing Effective Signage & Posters: Keep It Simple, Like the WPA:
“Oh twice as much ain’t twice as good, And can’t sustain like one half could” – Gravity, John Mayer
So, you probably have a lot to say to potential customers, and you want to make sure you include it all when printing a sign, poster, or banner? Actually, you’re better off keeping it simple. Don’t waste your time creating wordy signage like these poster design fails:
Poster design FAILS!
Think fewer words and images. If you’re banner looks like a page ripped from an encyclopedia, (What’s that? Ok, I’m old!) people will walk right by it and it will get lost in all the noise and visual stimulation that surrounds us on every street.
Effective but Cheap Banners & Sign Printing
Another tip and bit of inspiration: these WPA posters, like most of the propaganda of the era including Russian Constructivist posters, were done with few resources and technology on a tight budget. If you don’t have the services of a professional designer, or skill as an illustrator, you can still appreciate the effectiveness and simplicity of these designs, and rethink your own signage layout to better command attention.
So, don’t think that you have to break the bank, especially with new printing processes, to get effective custom signage for yourself or your small business. Of course, we recommend Vistaprint, but you can find brilliant cheap printing from several other online printing companies like Shutterfly.
Advertising and design ideas from Russian Constructivism: There are 101 ideas for why you might be printing flyers or posters: advertising a new restaurant, a clothing sale, a concert, or maybe a coupon for an oil change?
Regardless of the reason you are printing flyers, the objective is the same: get attention & convey your message.
Ideas for Flyer or Poster Design: Go Bold or Go Home!
So how do you get your message across on a busy street when 100 other businesses and brands are competing for the same people’s attention? Be bold and clear; and consider taking inspiration from Russian Constructivism.
Soon after WWI a bold & abstract design style came out of Russia called “Constructivism.” It had the simple objective of getting people’s attention, and with minimal resources or technology, it soon became an effective style for both advertising and propaganda.
Constructivist design was constructed from visual elements like lines and planes in a precise, simple order. Often it looked like they used an exact-o knife (not Photoshop) as their main design tool.
Really, it was as if the message itself was cooked down to the basics, with all of the non-essential parts melting away.
Constructivist designers knew that people were used to seeing messages in the same way: from left to right, straight across the page; so why not rethink this basic unwritten rule?
Factor in that in early 20th Century Russia the illiteracy rate was high; so advertisers knew that relying on paragraphs of words to convey their message wasn’t an option. They needed simple imagery to reinforce whatever was being said so the message was still received, even by those who couldn’t read.
Flyer and Poster Design Ideas: Less Is More
“Men of few words are the best men.” – William Shakespeare
In all of our effort to convey a message, we have the tendency to over-complicate things. Whether we are teaching a lesson to a child, or advertising a restaurant, less is usually more. The essence of our message often gets lost in the excessive number of words and imagery that we use to deliver it.
So, try reducing your message to it’s most simple form.
Sample: 2 Flyers / Posters for Bicycle Safety, Only 1 is Effective!
Ok, so this isn’t an “apples to apples” comparison, but you get the point. Give a quick look at both of these safety flyers. Ten minutes from now you might not be able to name even one of the ten rules of “bicycle safety,” but I guarantee you will remember the “stay off the sidewalk” message.
Check out these flyers for the same movie. Both of these flyers succeed in being simple and bold, but the one that adds a “Constructivist” twist seems to really grab and hold my attention.
Printing Flyers or Posters: Can You Simplify Your Message?
Sure, you might not have a professional graphic designer or a big budget, but you still want to get noticed. Before printing your flyers, answer these questions:
Does your flyer command attention and deliver your message instantly?
Are all of the words you’re using really necessary, or could you cut them in half?
Is your layout too predictable, with all of the copy running in rows from left to right?
What if you rotated some of the words or design elements?
If someone couldn’t read, would they know what your flyer is advertising?
Sample Constructivist Designs: Ideas for Flyers & Posters
Check out some of these simple, eye-catching, bold examples of Constructivist advertising, and try envisioning your own message distilled to simple, bold fonts, copy, and imagery:
Flyers: Whether you’re printing something the size of a postage stamp or a poster, the goal is the same: get your message across. Flyers can do just that, so consider making them a part of your marketing strategy!
Vistaprint Posters Coupon + Review: So, a lot of the reviews out there were written in haste by people who never used Vistaprint, but will make a buck if you click on their site. I decided to put my money where my mouth is and have a poster design printed through Vistaprint, and share the results.
If you are just here looking for a coupon, and don’t care to read my review, no offense. Here’s the best available coupon for posters:
This year I was once again tasked with the job of creating an 11×17″ poster design for our town’s annual “Music In the Park” fundraising event.
This is what you’d call a “labor of love” as designing and printing the poster usually takes me three days of work, and I always exceed the $100 budget that I’m given to print 50 posters. Any money spent above that comes directly out of my pocket, so it’s in my interest find the best price and quality for 11×17″ posters.
Instead of using the guy at the print shop down the road who does me a favor to only go $50 over budget, I’m using Vistaprint this year.
Using Vistaprint for Printing Posters
So, the hard part was designing these things, which can take me a long time. I’m not a perfectionist in many areas of life, but I truly invest myself in anything that I call my “design,” especially when it’s displayed publicly all over town. So, that’s one of the reasons I can’s mess this up.
My first thought was to have my poster design printed at the Staples down the road. One quick call, and I realized that printing 50 of these color posters at 11×17 inches was going to cost me over $250 dollars. Not an option.
Next thought: Vistaprint. I’ve had a number of things printed by them, and have always been happy, so here goes.
How Much Do 11×17 Posters Cost at Vistaprint?
A quick search through this week’s Vistaprint coupons and I found a code for 40% off all poster printing. Woo hoo! A quick estimate, and I realized that with shipping and premium poster cardstock these 11×17 posters would cost me about $2 each if I printed 50. If I had only needed 20, they would have cost about $3 each.
Larger sizes cost more, smaller posters cost less. The more you have printed, the lower the price per piece.
My Review for Vistaprint Posters: 11×17, 16×20, 18×24, or 22×28″
Here’s my poster design: (digital file)
music in the park newtown pa 2016
So, I had a complete design, so I ignored the design templates that they offered and chose the “upload your own design option.” Be sure to download their free poster design template for the best results.
The design templates ensure that you have the correct color setup (CMYK) and a high enough resolution design. (175 dpi)
Vistaprint offers full-bleed printing, which means they print right up to and over the edge if you’d like ensuring that you don’t have an unwanted white border anywhere. Their design template (Photoshop) inculdes guides that show you where the safety zones are so that a tiy shift in printing doesn’t give you unexpected results or cut off your design.
After the easy file upload VIstaprint walks you through a few screens including a virtual preview of your design which you have to sign off on. (look for misspellings or unexpected cropping here) Looks good on-screen, but as you can tell, my poster has a lot of little details like a vintage effect (fine scratches) as well as color gradients, which made me nervous.
A poorly printed gradient can print out in ugly bands of color, like my cheap inkjet printer would do. Let’s hope this goes well!
I chose to upgrade to premium 80-lb cardstock instead of the thin glossy paper that is the cheapest option. I’m hanging these posters around town, so I want them to be sturdy! The premium cardstock added about $1 per print.
Ok, all looks good. Time to choose my shipping option.
Vistaprint Poster Shipping: How Long Does It Take?
Normally I am a procrastinator, but I didn’t need these posters in my hands for another 2 weeks, so I chose economy shipping which was estimated to take almost 2 weeks, but it’s much cheaper.
*Tip: If you are a new customer, there is often a coupon available for free shipping!
Turns out the posters arrived exactly 7 days after I placed the order and used economy shipping! Maybe shipping speed varies by location and product, but I got my posters in half the time estimated. Glad I didn’t spend twice as much for expedited delivery!
Using a Promo Code at Checkout for Posters
I had copied down a coupon code for 40% off posters before starting my order, so now is the time to enter it at checkout. As promised, the code delivered and gave me a 40% discount. Wow! That’s now much less than half the price of printing 11×17 posters at Staples!
If you have any issues using a promo code, make sure it’s not just for new customers, or try another code. I update the Vistaprint coupons on this site every day or two.
*Tip: After I placed my order, Vistaprint gave me the option to double the number of posters printed at an 80% discount. That would mean I could add 50 more for a total of $19 more. I didn’t think I needed another 50, but it was tempting!
Vistaprint 11×17 Poster: My Review – GREAT Discount Custom Poster Printing Online!
WOW! My crappy iPhone 5 photo doesn’t do these posters justice. Bright colors and sharp lines! I’m so happy with how these posters turned out!
The premium 80 pound glossy paper(cardstock) is really sturdy. I originally wanted to print these with a matte finish, but that wasn’t an option. I’m really happy with the glossy result!
As I mentioned, these shipped really quickly, and I got them in a week (6 business days) even with the cheapest shipping available.
Vistaprint posters Are Not Exactly the Stated Sizes / Dimensions
*Note: The Vistaprint 11×17 posters are not exactly 11×17. They are slightly larger, measuring about 0.25 inches larger on each dimension. (About 11.25 x 17.25″) If you are just tacking these up somewhere, this probably doesn’t matter. However, this was annoying when I bought 11×17″ frames and had to trim about 1/8 of an inch from all 4 sides!
Some Vistaprint Poster Samples:
Vistaprint Poster Review Conclusion
I will be using Vistaprint again for 11×17 posters, as this is a great size for small business marketing, advertising events, concerts, etc. _ The same process and quality is, of course, available at larger sizes like 16×20, 18×24, and 22×28.
You can also check reviews directly on the Vistaprint site for other people’s experience with printing posters and honest reviews.
Why the negative reviews on Vistaprint.com? From what I can tell the most common reason for bad reviews was that people probably didn’t use their design template. This resulted in low resolution photos and text, or posters being cropped in unexpected ways. If you don’t use their template, your also likely to have saved your design as RGB(red, gren, blue) instead of the recommended CMYK(cyan, magenta, yellow, black) color setup, which it is printed with.
Keep in mind that when someone has a bad experience, they are much more likely to write a review! But, doing your homework and reading all the reviews that you can will help you to not make the same mistakes. Vistaprint seems to always offer disgruntled customers credit to redo their order, regardless of who is at fault.
Here’s my final printed 11×17 poster one more time. I threw a quarter in there for scale.