Designing Movie Posters To Attract An Audience

Imagine going to the multiplex knowing nothing about the films on show and having to choose a movie from a line up of posters. The harsh reality is that your movie is competing with at least 10 others in this moment. So how do you win their hearts and minds at this critical time? Great poster design is an art that will give your film a competitive edge.

Australian films often have modest budgets for marketing, so creating an effective poster is hugely important because it is the one essential, non-negotiable marketing item that every movie has simply got to have. After the movie title, your posterdesign is the single most important leveraging tool.

Every movie poster tells you about the story, or who’s starring. Great movie posters do this and a lot more. They contain additional elements to attract and motivate your target audience to go and see the movie. This process is called ‘Positioning’. I see many contemporary movie posters which lack this magic ingredient.

The problem is that most people think poster art is only about graphic design. Design is an important part of the process, but making a compelling proposition about the benefits of ‘seeing the movie’ is the art of advertising.

As a young man learning my craft at BBDO in New York, I was privileged to work alongside art directors who did nothing else but poster art. The Americans are masters of poster art, particularly for the movie industry and there are important principles for creating great movie posters.

Posters are the consummate advertising art form. They are tough and demanding creatively because your whole story must be distilled into a single idea. And when you get all the elements right, a movie poster can become a classic. A valued collector item, recognised for its own artistic merit.

The high art of poster advertising is alive and well today at Reedcomm Entertainment now located at the new Adelaide Studios at Glenside. Our team has 40 collective years experience designing posters for many of Australia’s top 100 brands.

We have won many awards for poster design the last 2 years in particular and I am proud to have my work featured in the book,‘100 Great Posters you wish you’d created.’

Great design begins with a deep appreciation of the movie story. We then work at understanding the target audience and their needs. Armed with these insights, we then begin developing concepts which lead to the creation of a central idea, often a visual metaphor that encapsulates and projects the essence of the movie.

Here are two examples of Poster concepts we’ve developed for movies SWERVE and WATERSHED.

The world’s top posters also deliver a potent promise about what the experience will bring to the viewer. This is best expressed in emotional terms. Sometimes a single frame from a film can deliver this promise. It’s also a great way to feature the stars, particularly if they’re well known.

But what happens when a single frame from the movie simply doesn’t ‘sell the story?’ JAWS created a brilliant image for its poster that is far more potent than any single frame taken from the movie. This awesome illustration worked its magic when coupled together with the promise, “The terrifying motion picture from the terrifying No. 1 best seller”

Poster artists like Reedcomm offer filmmakers a bigger arsenal of creative weapons than graphic designers. If the movie ethos is ‘show don’t tell’, the graphic design ethos is ‘show don’t sell’!

Words on a page make up a movie script and words play an equally important role in poster design. I believe that a written proposition about what you will get from seeing the movie is essential. Some producers shy away from a tag-line, but they’re simply missing an opportunity to give the audience yet another reason to choose your movie over the competition. A motivational hook! All great movie posters have a tagline. Blockbusters like Titantic; ”Nothing on earth can come between them.” Even hardcore movies like Reservoir Dogs deliver a supporting line, “Let’s go to work!”

Reedcomm is offering Australian producers a free 1 hour consult on creating a movie poster that positions your film to maximise its audience.
Contact: geoffrey [at] or call 0417 859 576

See a collection of Reedcomm’s award winning advertising posters