Poster Design, Part 1

I was recently asked to design a poster for a friend to use in his D&D game. Since this is a fun, personal pro-bono project, I thought I’d make posts describing the my process for creating this poster.

Step 1 – Research

The project is to design a poster for an adventuring company seeking new recruits. So I immediately get to work on an important and often-overlooked part: the research. I could just start whipping something up, but it’s good to get some ideas and see examples of job advertising posters. This can help get the juices flowing, figure out what’s good to emphasize, what makes a compelling job advertisement poster.

So I take to Google and Pinterest, trying different keywords to get some ideas. I make a special pinboard on Pinterest for this project so I have all my inspirations in one place for easy review.

Now that I have my job poster references, I need to start researching the other theme. This poster is an adventuring company advertisement for the Planescape D&D setting. So I need to make sure my design has a Planescape feel. The setting has a few visual elements that stand out.

First, Planescape makes liberal use of the Exocet typeface. You might also recognize this typeface from the Diablo games. So I know I’m going make use of Exocet. I also look into some secondary typefaces. Exocet can be difficult to use for general text, so I want something that’s more readable. I pick out a few ideas to test later. While I’m looking up Planescape, I look for some other graphic ideas to help spice up the poster.

Finally, since this is a poster for a fantasy world, I know I want to create a parchment look. I can’t make it look like a modern poster; the technology to create our modern designs wouldn’t be available in Planescape. It’s tough to make a convincing parchment poster using only digital media, but that’s okay. This poster is only going to be shown on a computer. I want to make it believable enough, I don’t need it to be a perfect replica.

Among other things, I look for old paper textures. CG Textures is one of my favorite places to go for textures like this, so I head over and select a few that I like.

Step 2 – Thumbnails

Now that I’ve done my research, it’s time to hash out some ideas. I take out my sketchbook and start doodling.

I try not to spend more than 60 seconds on each one. The object isn’t to create a polished piece. I’m trying to let the ideas flow. I don’t worry too much about organization or design “rules” at this point. Right now it’s just free-flowing energy, getting a bunch of ideas out on paper in a short time.

Poster Thumbnails

Because I spend a short time per thumbnail, I can generate more ideas. I usually try for at least six thumbnails for each project. I’ve heard it said that you should always do more than three. The first three tend to be typical or less innovative and by the fourth you’re starting to break out of your box. I don’t know if that’s precisely true. However, I do know the more iterations you make, the more interesting (and sometimes wacky) designs you can come up with.

I did six for this project. For a professional job, I’d try to do more — often at least ten. I’ve done as many as 40 before, just because I felt like I needed to. It all depends on the project, the client, and how much time you have to get it done.

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