The Textizen Blog

NOV 13 2014

5 Tips for Creating an Effective Outreach Poster

Outreach tips header

For many would-be participants, your poster, flyer, or pamphlet will be their first point of contact with your project. As a result, great visual design can make the difference between a trickle of responses and a flood of press and public participation.

Hiring a pro is the most reliable way to get results, but here are 5 tips for creating compelling outreach materials on your own:

  1. Start with the basics: Good color and font choice is the foundation of an effective design. This tutorial offers an excellent overview with some key takeaways: select a fitting color scheme with 2-4 hues, with the brightest or most contrasting color set aside for special emphasis. Choose one primary font for the text, making sure it is clear and legible.
  2. Give your main prompt center stage: Your primary message should be big and bold, so that the viewer’s eye is immediately drawn to the text. As you design the poster, be sure to consider the maximum viewing distance to ensure legibility.
  3. Avoid unnecessary text: Your may feel inclined to explain the full context, but the more you write, the less likely it is that people will get the main idea (e.g., texting in a response, attending a meeting, joining your research study). Stick to the essentials.
  4. Establish trust: Use agency branding to indicate who you are, and briefly explain why you want their participation. Official branding will also make it clear that involvement will lead to real action.
  5. Consider a human face to draw attention: Cognitive psychologists have demonstrated that pictures of human faces are very effective at capturing people’s attention.1 2 Viewers will also follow the gaze of people in the image, so you can use this to draw attention to your message (arrows have a similar effect).3

While posters are a popular way to get messages to the public, these tips are applicable to any materials: mailers, postcards, flyers, live presentations, and anything else with a strong visual component.

Below, we’ll break down outreach materials from two recent Textizen campaigns and discuss what makes them so effective.

Breakdown: Transfort Poster

Transfort MAX outreach poster

Image via Transfort

Fort Collins, CO’s Transfort kicked off their outreach campaign with this vibrant poster, which was placed on buses and at transit stops. The poster was created by a professional designer, but its brilliance is in its simplicity and there are several lessons anyone can take from it. Here’s why this design is so effective:

  • Context at a glance: The bus in the background immediately gives the viewer an idea of what the poster is about, but is blurred so it doesn’t distract from the foreground.
  • Prominent prompt: The orange text box on the left contrasts with the background and features a simple but compelling question.
  • Visual hierarchy: The most important items are biggest and brightest. First, the question itself in a bright orange box; second, the number for text replies, in bold.
  • Directing the eye: A small arrow at the bottom of the orange box leads the viewer’s eye to the four multiple choice options. To the right of the answers, a subtle arrow points to the phone number for texting in replies.
  • Minimal distraction: The bar at the bottom is a muted gray, so it doesn’t distract from the rest of the image. Small logos at the bottom right make it clear that this is an official poster. Finally, the explanatory text is as clear and concise as possible.

All of these elements make the poster highly eye-catching and effective, even from a distance. Try stepping back from your computer screen and looking at the image of the poster from across the room. Even at a this small size, the main elements are visible from several feet!

Breakdown: Philly Bike Share Sidewalk Decals

Philly Bike Share sidewalk art

Image via joshuatrii on Instagram

Outreach art doesn’t have to be a paper poster! Philadelphia Bike Share used these huge vinyl stickers on sidewalks throughout the city to ask for input on proposed bike share station locations. The campaign received over 1,000 text message comments, and many more on the web. What made their artwork so successful at capturing the public’s attention?

  • Bold colors: The bright red and blue leap out of the gray tones of the sidewalk.
  • Prominent prompt: An eye-catching shape frames the primary question: Is this a good spot for a bike share station?
  • Directing the eye: The arrow in the Philly Bike Share logo points directly at a bubble with a link for more information, and a hashtag for spreading awareness on social media.
  • Minimal distraction: With fewer than 40 words, the decal asks a question, provides a link for more info, prompts people to text in, and informs the viewer that the program will launch next spring.
  • Establishing trust: A link to the City of Philadelphia’s government website assures the viewer that this is an official city initiative.

A great poster, combined with smart placement, savvy in-person outreach and a strong press push, will take your outreach campaign to new heights. In future blog posts, we’ll talk about these other elements of successful outreach.

If you’re ready to use mobile to take your outreach efforts to the next level, get in touch:


  1. Theeuwes, J., & Van der Stigchel, S. (2006). Faces capture attention: Evidence from inhibition of return. Visual Cognition, 13(6), 657-665.

  2. Langton, S. R., Law, A. S., Burton, A. M., & Schweinberger, S. R. (2008). Attention capture by faces. Cognition, 107(1), 330-342.

  3. Galfano, G., Dalmaso, M., Marzoli, D., Pavan, G., Coricelli, C., & Castelli, L. (2012). Eye gaze cannot be ignored (but neither can arrows). The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 65(10), 1895-1910.