7 Essentials of a Great Movie Poster Design

Since its inception, movie industry has come a long way now. Undoubtedly, the basic purpose of movies is still to entertain the audience but now it has become a billion dollar industry, larger than life. Big movies like Harry Potter, Twilight, and The Dark Knight have brought huge business to the movie industry. The revenue figures are more than millions and billions and it is considered to be a very common thing now. The success of any movie depends a lot on the way it is being advertised and promoted. Movie posters are a great way to market any movie and it is indeed a great opportunity for designers as well to show their creativity.

Movie poster designing has also evolved a lot with the passage of time. If you can, do compare the old movie posters and posters for movies being released now and you will be amazed to see the difference. Posters these days are much more creative and attractive to grab viewers’ attention.  If you are a designer who is working on designing a movie poster, always remember, it should be interesting enough to bring your target audience to cinemas. Today, we will be discussing 7 basic elements of a great movie poster design and as a designer, if you follow these; you will come up with an extra ordinary movie poster.

1. Use ‘AIDA’ Formula

Use AIDA Formula

AIDA stands for attention, interest, desire and action. As a designer, you should be well aware of this formula and techniques to use it because this is considered to be a basic sales formula. Designers who are behind the poster designing of many successful movies have used this formula.

As mentioned earlier, as a designer, you should be creative enough to grab the attention of the people passing by. Now, this does not mean that in order to grab attention, you have to design something over the top with flashy designs. Yes, they are a good way to attract attention but not all movie posters require flashy images. Make sure you are well aware of the story and you can pick the leading character or an interesting plot to attract attention. Your poster should leave people asking for more.

2. Illustrate but don’t enlighten

Illustrate but don’t enlighten

Your movie poster should only reveal the theme of your movie but not the suspense. The best way to disclose the theme and to hide the suspense is to use illustrations. Images are a great way to attract viewer’s attention without disclosing the details of the movie. This idea works great for horror and suspense movies. Horror or rough images will surely grab the attention of users. If it is a romantic image, you can obviously create a dreamy effect.

3. Giving your viewers an incentive

Giving your viewers an incentive

Theme for all movies cannot be explained via iconography. Sometimes you have to put in that extra effort to give your users an incentive to watch the movie by just viewing your poster. These days mostly posters are designed by taking an interesting scene from the movie, creating that much needed suspense. It should be interesting enough for viewer to decide instantly that he is definitely going to watch the movie to know what happens next. This can be a great idea for the movies with a fantasy, unrealistic theme.

4. Managing to attract attention of non-fans

Managing to attract attention of non-fans

The fact remains that some fans are way too loyal with their favorite celebrities that regardless of how good or bad the marketing campaigns are, they will still show up at the cinema once the movie is released. Your test as a designer is to be able to bring non-fans to the cinema theatres as well. It is very important for a designer to highlight correct things in a poster. Director, actor names are highlighted anyway so make sure you put something into that poster for a non-fan to come and see the movie regardless of the fact that his favorite actor is not there.

5. Consistency


It does not matter what kind of film you are marketing and designing for. The poster has to be unique and stylish. If you take a look at some of the old blockbusters, you will see the creativity in them. Also, managing consistency is very important so make sure that your promotional designs are consistent with other things such as DVD posters in the future.  The image should be recognizable enough to the viewer on DVDs and other promotional activities.

6. Creativity that is suitable enough for all formats

Creativity that is suitable enough for all formats

Avoid getting too arty with the designing because as mentioned earlier, the same poster would be used for the DVDs and other covers. It has to be designed in a way that it can be shrunk into smaller sizes. There are very few film makers who prefer different covers for their DVDs and marketing posters. However, most film makers still prefer same poster for all purposes just to keep the consistency alive. Make sure whatever you design in scalable and leaves a long lasting appeal.

7. If it is a sequel, it should be relevant

If it is a sequel, it should be relevant

Sequels are the new trend. Every movie maker is coming up with sequels for their previous blockbusters. Since sequels hold much importance, their poster designing should obviously have some relevance with the previous posters for viewers to be able to relate. Recognizability is necessary to draw viewership who loved the first release.


Designing a poster requires a lot of planning. If you plan it properly and if you are aware of all the essential elements, you can surely come up with a great poster design. Movie posters are a great way to flaunt your creativity so if given a chance, make sure you make the best out of it. Movie marketing is a huge business and if you are successful in making one great movie poster, you will be flooded with offers. Just follow the elements mentioned above and come up with an extra ordinary design which viewers will fall in love with.

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  1. The best movie posters seem to have a really eye catching and large centrally focused graphic combined with some large copy or the movie logo. The image also needs to help you instantly recognize the movie.

  2. Jason says:

    No. Wrong.
    Please don’t guess and try to figure out what we do in 7 simple steps. AND you forgot to add anything about the client or marketing department involved.

    • Rock Lobster says:

      I agree with Jason…

      Sure these steps are “wonderful”… but I don’t recall John Alvin or Saul Bass taking advice from ??? (using a guideline found on the internet) to give them insights on to how to create “great” key art. In my opinion now all I want to do is exactly NOT these steps.

      Also have you ever heard of a client? Yes.. that person who hires you… who has a two day deadline and no artistic bone in their body…with no assets to work from… who pays YOU to create what THEY want….??

      “Make that low resolution head bigger and yellow, and that billing block needs to be bigger… a lot bigger.”