Ben Borgers

Designing Posters for Humans

March 31, 2022

There’s a lot of posters up on campus, trying to get you to come to things or apply for things or do things. And sometimes I see them, and wish that I had an opportunity to design a poster too, to see whether I could make one that successfully attracts a lot of people to come/apply/do.

My overall feeling is that one should design a poster for a mildly-interested human. Not a mythical person who’s super interested and motivated to take action on your poster.

I see a lot of posters with a typed out URL, maybe even a shortened link, hoping that you’ll type that URL in at a later time. But to be honest, there’s a super low chance I’m gonna remember a given URL later. My memory sucks. If you’re gonna get the person to do anything, my feeling is that they’re gonna have to do it right there in front of your poster.

A pointed exception to this is posters on the back of bathroom stall doors. Those are awesome. More to be explored there, I feel like.

So what would my poster look like? I’m not sure, but I have some loose thoughts.

Let’s say it’s asking you to apply for something. Maybe that poster could have a QR code on it, that directs you to a page where you can enter your email address to get reminded in a couple hours to check this out when you’re at your computer.

My feeling is that most people wouldn’t scan a QR code and then read the whole page, or remember to come back to that tab on their phone later. What we really wanna do is remind them when they’re on a bigger screen, and also capture their email address so we can send reminders as the application deadline approaches (sorry).

I could see this reminder-email strategy working on myself. I don’t think just a QR code to a website would work on me — I’d probably close the tab and forget forever, unless I really cared about applying. But I might see the email a couple hours later and get a second reminder that I might wanna take action on that poster.

Another idea: the QR code could send me to some link where I can add something to my Google Calendar. At least for me, nothing happens in my life unless it’s on my calendar (again, my memory sucks). But if an event or deadline is added to my calendar, I’m very likely to see it coming up.

I have no idea whether these ideas would actually be better than the status quo, but it’s fun to dream up ideas. And maybe someday I’ll have the opportunity to try them out!