What is Social Poster Design? 8 Significant Poster Designers Advice!


What is Cultural or Social Poster Design? How will poster design impact the world? Can designers communicate and change the world? What are the principles for a good poster design to be effective? These are questions that many designers are seeking answers for answers. We have seen lately resurgence of  new fresh blood designers, who are eager to design posters for good. Posters to convey their own messages, their own feelings, frustration or happiness, political ideas, or antiwar messages, but they fail. Why? I think because most of the graphic designers, do not know the value or the power of poster design. They do not know it’s importance, thus they do not know how to effectively present the message, or how to capture the attention.  Can those who seek to find the answers find the path? Who will teach them? Unfortunately, we can’t do this in this article, but we can give the advices and inspire them through the words of 7 unique, significant Poster Designers. We have the honor to host here Andrew Lewis from Canada, Antonio Castro from Texas, Chaz Maviyane-Davies from Zimbabwe, Luba Lukova from USA, Mehdi Saeedi from Iran, Michael Thompson from Jamaica, Pekka Loiri from Finland, and Susana Machicao from Bolivia. All are eager to share their ideas and knowledge on Poster Design.


Andrew Lewis Design


What fine Social / Cultural Poster Design is? Cultural or social posters in my mind must communicate its message to anyone in any country in almost any language. I recall judging a poster competition with Ahn Sang-Soo in Beijing and he made a comment that has since been one “rules” to follow. He said that many people would not be able to read nor understand many of the submissions due to the language/typography barrier. This seemed simple enough but what a revelation! A poster must be able to universally communicate, connect and deliver its message to anyone in any country. Indeed, some posters are meant for a regional distribution but graphically, I believe if well executed, the graphic message should break through with the idea or message.
How poster design impact the world we are living? That is a very difficult question. Some posters (very few) have attained notoriety via mass media outlets such as television, viral/social networks or news feeds. By having that specific poster introduced to a much larger and possible international audience it can take on a life of its own. Sadly, a bad example of that would be the 2008 Shepard Fairey “HOPE” poster supporting the Obama campaign. Indeed, it did draw attention and galvanized support for that cause and latterly caused a copyright stink for the artist. But it did have impact on those two levels and drew attention to this older medium. The poster in the past 5 years seems to have drawn a new breath for younger designers as a form of expression through exhibitions, competitions and even gig posters. This is good, but I feel we must tread softly with respect so that we don’t diminish the value of the poster through over exposure just for the sake of creating yet another poster exhibition or event.
Give us 3 principles of good poster design. Simplicity, timeless design/graphic representation and universality of message while at the same time creating a dynamic, vibrant, new solution. And that is why in my humble opinion, the poster is the most difficult to master as a designer, if ever be truly mastered at all.


Antonio Castro


What fine Social / Cultural Poster Design is? A social poster needs to alert and engage the viewer in a compelling and provocative fashion. It needs to challenge and call an audience into action. In order to achieve this impact; the social poster ought to be swift and in your face. The Cultural poster utilizes the same tools but it delivers a different message. This is to promote a cultural event, etc.
How poster design impact the world we are living. I believe that the only thing that a poster can do is calling people into action and it is a way for an artist/designer to channel his/her frustrations towards a particular social problem. If we truly want to impact the world in a positive way, we have to get involved in organizations that do this. Just designing a poster is not enough.
Tell us 3 principles of good poster design. A good poster has to tell a story or comment on an issue. The story or comment needs to be communicated to the audience in a bold, simple and beautiful way. It needs to be smart and beautiful. And last, a good poster needs to come from the heart, it needs to be honest.


Chaz Maviyane-Davies


Power -the ability to manipulate images and words into a form that gives them the power to communicate and evoke a response. Never underestimate the alluring power of the visual. Artistic license, coupled with values and intelligence, is good design. Images transport ideas, but design drives them. The act of design is an act of independence.

Design needs to mean something, it needs to be experienced. It can sing, dance, perform, converse, explain, laugh, cry, decry, question or fight. When you can trust it to respond effectively to these challenges, those solutions are invested with power.

Visual language is innovation and therefore tied to our ethical and social responsibility for the quality of the cultures we inhabit. We need to respect design as an integral part of our daily cultural activity and think of design as more than just doing, as we allow our work to be the intermediary for being.

Design gives us the opportunity to project our imagination through the lens of our entity. This is liberating internally and externally. It is sharing and unless you own the message spiritually, unless it arises from your beliefs and human commitments, it can never do what you need it to do. Self-determination and freedom of expression lie at the core of the politics of design. It begins with thinking which is then embedded into a concept through craft and skill. Design is expression of thought, and the design process gives form and meaning to thought. Offer dialogue, not only spectacle. Create and articulate from a striving for meetings, so that the audience may be in communion with your images and words, making you not only a problem solver but a cultural stimulant. When the intent of your being is felt through your design then a powerful force has been wielded. It’s form has transcended the sum of it’s parts as it’s concept finds meaning where there was none.


Luba Lukova


What fine Social / Cultural Poster Design is: I think it is an artwork that expresses something that many people feel but they just can’t say it with an image. Almost the same as a good song. It is art that has a message and speaks to everybody, transcending language, culture and politics.
How poster design impacts the world we are living: I believe if it’s done well poster design provokes discussion, thinking, emotion. That may look not enough to transform the world, but that’s how art works: it has the power to change perception and increase empathy.
3 principles of good poster design: 1. Complex simplicity. This applies to both form and content. 2. Clarity of thought. By this I mean to really understand the issues you depict and to be able to translate that into graphic language. 3. Mastery of artistic skills. Without that even the most clever idea means nothing.


Mehdi Saeedi


What is fine social/cultural Poster Design? Design that expresses an original idea, communicates accurately with the viewer, and shows a novel and different approach to execution.

How can Poster Design impact the world we are living in? Poster Design that communicates appropriately and effectively with the viewer has the potential to make an impact in all social, cultural, and political spheres.


Michael Thompson


Humans should always evolve to be better global citizens. Artist and designers are uniquely positioned to advocate through Cultural or Social Design, and Creative Activism.  With this powerful gift of creativity, conscious artist can become a catalyst for social awareness and protest. However, to be an effective poster designer, understanding this medium is also a lesson in how the human mind see things.

Design professionals can play a positive role because we have the tools to influence. However, we have to be enlightened to the realities around us to do this. Many designers use their creativity to sell corporate products and push their commercial interest, because it is necessary, it is how designers make a living. However, it is also necessary to give back some time, energy and creativity to make a difference in our world. With nothing except our minds and a computer, today we can create sophisticated visual campaigns to build movements to tackle big issues like injustice, poverty and world hunger, or to stimulate the process for changing society. Why not just do it!

In the past the only avenue for social poster expression were the wall of the streets, while that still remains to some extent, the Internet has become a much more dynamic annex. Through social media platforms like Flickr, twitter and Facebook, it is now possible to spread ideas and awareness around the world quickly with immediate feedback.  The good news is, I see more artist taking this route, the Arab Spring and Occupy Wall Street protest for example are fertile ground for creative activist and poster designers to make a global impact. I am optimistic that a conscious renaissance of activism will emerge. Social artist and designers are not immune to the voice of our conscience and are speaking out visually.

Beautifully designed posters are effective in getting attention. You see it and it it is clear that this design works.  A good iconic poster design in my opinion should have balance and beauty. One should get the message quickly even in a foreign language, a piece of art you would like to hang on your own wall. Whatever the message the composition and idea should be harmonious, and the message should never be compromised. Keep the message clear and simple with out-of-the-box creative thinking.


Pekka Loiri


The purpose of a Social / Cultural poster is to awaken, alert, warn and remind. It’s mission is to tell a story effectively and send strong message. It can tell about injustice or disaster, but just as well be attractive to the theater or to report that the circus has arrived to town. It’s purpose is to tell stories and stimulate humans interest. It wants to impact on the viewer’s way of thinking and behavior. That’s how I see the meaning and purpose  of  social / cultural  posters.

We cannot change the world with posters, but we  certainly can influence people’s minds and thoughts by/with Posters. This has been always known by both opponents of the war than the war mongers. Posters have always been one of the most effective and used method when making propaganda.

There’s so many of brilliant exemples, but I only want to mention here one: Erich Henningsen’s Tuborg Beer Poster from the year 1900. A real sweet and blessed thirst. A superior feeling when you finally get an opportunity to quenches the thirst. The mood of the poster does not need any explanation. There’s no picture of  beer. No bottle, no “schooner”, a pint! Just the feeling, sense and plenty more! This is the way to do it.


Susana Machicao


Social poster is an answer per se. Is the most important mass communication media that we have to encourage, notify and denounce. Stimulates, reinforces and concretes a position in the subject that it represents. The designer feels as the same of their poster.

Today social posters are the thermometer of the society and become an strong measurement of what happens and moves people. They become the historic registration and in the future, young generation will be able to interpret a time period in our history.

What makes a good of poster is to work with a concept, economy of resources and to be a designer with social compromise. You simply cannot represent what you don’t know, feel unfair or when you don’t think you can make a statement.


Maria Papaefstathiou

VISUAL DESIGNER since 1996 and blogger since 2010. Living in Athens, Greece. She has been focusing her research on poster design and particularly on social poster design and portrait design. Her main poster project is a series of posters celebrating great personalities of traditional and popular culture in Greece and Jamaica. These include actors, singers, musicians, poets etc. This is an ongoing project. “I believe that design is a powerful tool that we designers can use to spark enthusiasm, change mindsets and bring positive actions to our world and our culture”. FOUNDER AND EDITOR OF GRAPHICART-NEWS.COM BLOG. She carefully curates high-quality designs, illustrations, and art, from all over the world that will teach and provoke other designers. Many consider her blog to be an exceptional educational tool. CO-FOUNDER OF THE INTERNATIONAL REGGAE POSTER CONTEST which was launched on December 2011, partnering, the creative activist Michael Thompson aka Freestylee. (www.reggaepostercontest.com)


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