Make a lasting first impression on your target audience with a compelling alternative poster [with Free Templates]

All businesses have a unique selling point.

However, most of them fail to communicate it. So many fizzle out because they lack differentiation in the marketplace.

If you don’t want to be in that mass grave of brands — forgotten because they didn’t have anything new to offer — here’s what you do: highlight that uniqueness with a unique poster.

We’ll show you how to do that with easy-to-apply tips for your own alternative poster. You can also opt to click on images labeled edit this design in Canva to customize our professionally curated designs.

01. Experimental Imagery

I spent countless hours playing with a large scanner in one of my college’s studios. While the scanner was processing the image, I experimented by moving around whatever I was scanning. The resulting graphics and images seemed like they were melting, much like the image showcased in the poster above.

I also loved doing image transfers by spraying fixative on whatever I wanted to transfer and, before the fixative dried, placing the wet image on dry paper. It always gave me grungy results.

Take a stab at using tools in unorthodox ways. Play with type and design elements using techniques and process that don’t rely on your computer. Once you’re happy with your results, scan them (the right way) and polish them off on your screen.

Or you can use unconventionally stylized images like in the featured Canva template above.

02. Creative Type Application

Slice up large type at interesting angles, as showcased above. If you’re afraid clean cuts will get in the way of communication, try chopping up design elements instead of copy.

In the Canva template above, the type is an integral part of the design, offsetting the image of Saturn. Although the application overlaps, the separate words can still be easily distinguished from each other because of their different (but corresponding) colors.

03. Daring Colors

Guilty of always playing it safe with colors? Step outside your comfort zone and give daring hues a shot. You can use a fluorescent color palette, like the one used above, or you can use unlikely monochromatic combinations.

My favorite aspect of the poster above is how the different color rectangles form diagonals my eyes can follow. Sometimes I follow the diagonals formed by the dominant pink shapes, sometimes the vibrant blue. It makes the composition dynamic.

Flourescent combinations are cinch to do in Canva, as exemplified by the customizable template featured above. Try it out for yourself by clicking on the image.

04. Feature Bold Graphics

Forget tidy type and give center stage to a cool, bold graphic like the one above. If you look closely, you’ll see the name of the event, “Werkschau” cleverly designed into the paint stroke.

If you’re not sure how to go about creating a graphic for your poster, work with paint, plasticine, chalk, or any medium you’d like to create a series of explorations around a meaningful quote or headline. If you don’t end up with a completely polished graphic, you can take parts of your explorations and use them as design elements.

The simple but prominent eye graphic in the customizable poster above cleverly leaves the rest of the image to the viewer’s imagination.

05. Use Your Hands

Your own handwriting, as messy as it may be, can always make for interesting type for an alternative poster. Check out the example above, with bright lettering creatively placed inside hands covered in black paint.

In the same way, give your handwriting a chance. Use a variety of writing utensils, like pens or felt-tip pens, to write out whatever content you wish to use on your poster. When you are happy with it, incorporate it into any other visual you’re using or let it stand alone on your poster.

You can simulate this handwriting tip by applying brush or handwritten fonts — both available in the Canva library.

06. Play with Data Viz

Working with data? Display it creatively to let your audience “see” it on your poster. If you are new to data viz, make use of the many online tools for data visualization to create your graphics. Here is a great post covering many of them.

Many of the graphics generated by most tools in the article will be basic. You’ll find bar and pie charts, two options that won’t necessarily be the most visually interesting solutions. However, some of these tools will let you create stream graphs, spiral plots and sunburst diagrams. All of these will make for more interesting visuals, closer to the one featured above, that’ll work wonderfully on your poster.

Before starting, check out the Data Visualization Catalogue — it’s a great place for inspiration! Or you can creatively repurpose images in the Canva library, as shown in the template above.

07. Mix Old & New

Combine old and new techniques or elements to create a novel poster like the one showcased above.

If you’re unsure of which elements or techniques to combine, opt for a vintage drawing of the subject of your poster and contemporary type.

08. Try an Interesting Angle

We tend to play it safe, even with our photography choices. Change things up and feature shots taken from interesting angles and perspectives.

Not sure what this translates to? Check out what Jelle Maréchal did above. Instead of going for a comfortable shot of a cyclist, Maréchal chose an interesting shot captured from an uncommon angle. It adds dynamism to the poster and makes it an attention grabber.

Images that show an interesting perspective or convey depth usually fall in this type of alternative design. The template above shows a child framed in by a window, an image that perfectly captures the message of the poster while also serving as a structural device for the layout.

09. Big, Bold Type

Nearing a deadline and still have nothing to show? Use a classic design strategy and use big, bold type as a design element. Set a meaningful quote, date, or piece of content at a large point size.

Above, an otherwise conservative layout is pushed towards the unconventional side of the spectrum using large words set in different colors.

Play with design attributes, like color and opacity, to make your type come to life.

10. Strong Visual Contrast

image42

As you define colors for your alternative poster, opt for hues that help you build strong visual contrast. You don’t have to have a complex palette either. You can stick to two hues and still create a killer poster, like the example above.

11. Type as a Design Element

image13

If you want to use type as a design element but don’t want to set it at a large point size, as showcased earlier on, creatively lay it out on your poster. Play with alignment, size, color and placement to design a memorable poster like the one above by Studio Vie.

12. Lettering on Objects

image12

I’ve always enjoyed pieces that incorporate type directly onto elements being featured on them. Above, a funny quote is lettered on a lobster. However, I’ve seen type cleverly incorporated into a myriad of different objects.

If you wish to create a piece following the style, it is key that you make sure your type is skillfully incorporated into the element. You don’t want to end up with a visual that feels like a botched photoshop job!

13. Marry Type & Imagery

image36

Type doesn’t have to be set over photography–it can be directly incorporated into it. Instead of creating another poster featuring a big, bold heading over sports photography, Leo Rosa Borges married type and image to arrive at a novel solution.

14. Try a Grungy Typeface

image03

Ditch your font library and create type from scratch for your poster. Because you’re going for an alternative feel, your letterforms don’t have to be absolutely perfect. In fact, the imperfections they’ll feature will add to their grungy feel.

Not buying it? Check out the example above featuring perfectly imperfect grungy letters.

15. Add Movement

image31

My favorite aspect of the poster above is the movement it presents. To achieve the same result, start out by laying your content out using a grid. This means copy and design elements. Once you’ve set everything you’d like to feature on your poster on your page, being to rotate design elements.

You can rotate entire paragraphs or single elements, as showcased above. The result? A poster featuring elements that feel like they’ve been tossed in the air.

16. Feature Creative Photography

image28

Take chances with your photography choices and give unconventional, quirky shots a chance. The poster above, for Typomania, could have been designed type related imagery along more conventional lines. However, in choosing not to do so, the designer created a novel eye-catching poster Typomania attendees will surely remember.

17. Creatively Layout Type

image08

While I love to let the grid govern the way I set my content, it isn’t a bad idea to let your design elements or photography help shape how it should be laid out on your poster.

Note how, in the example above, a grid in combination with the image of clasped hands both shape how content is set on the poster. In the same way, make your content and imagery feel related by letting your imagery shape where content is placed on your poster.  

18. Try Black Ink

image30

There is something about black ink stains and spills that scream “grunge.” If you’re looking for a quick way to create a poster with a rebel attitude, give black ink a shot.

Above, the designer used a blank ink stain instead of a musical instrument to create a poster with a non-conformist feel.

19. Color a Photograph

image35

Sean Charmatz is among my favorite Instagram accounts these days. I love how he combines cute illustrated characters with photography. Not only does it make the content he serves super fun, it creates mini-narratives within each post.

The poster above showcases the same technique. If you have your heart set on an image but want to push it further, consider drawing in characters or elements to add a layer of fun to your poster.

20. Quirky Illustrations

image16

Don’t be afraid to create a funky illustration to be the main star of your poster. Combine it a beautiful color palette and masterfully set typography to arrive at a striking visual solution like the one for La Guarimba showcased above.

Don’t let yourself just disappear into all the marketing noise out there — stand out using the unique selling point you built your business on. The best way to highlight it is to design an alternative poster that reflects your innovative ideas.

Using the tips and templates we’ve featured above, you’ll be well on your way to doing just that. Happy designing!

Maria is a professional designer and social media devotee. After a few years of working in boutique agencies in New York and Boston, she decided to trade in her morning runs for morning dives and moved down to the warm Caribbean. She is currently working on becoming a scuba instructor in order to find a way to merge her two loves: design and the ocean.