Unit 1: Poster Design (2329, S15)

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Unit 1 Project: Poster Design

This assignment is adapted from an assignment designed by Dr. Quinn Warnick.


You may be just beginning your academic study of the principles of document design, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have a strong sense of what makes documents effective or ineffective. In fact, most people have an instinctive understanding of good document design, even if they lack the vocabulary to talk about it or the technical skills to produce sophisticated documents. This assignment is designed to help you formalize your natural instincts into a design philosophy that you can describe and defend. In addition, this project will familiarize you with some of the software tools used by professional document designers and technical communicators. But, as I explained in our syllabus, it is your use of and understanding of the terms and concepts related to visual design that matter most in our class.

Using the information contained in the “Scenario” section of this document, you will create three (3) different small posters for a single event. The three posters should be designed for different audiences and contexts, so you will need to determine what information to include on each poster. All three posters should be “cut from the same cloth,” which is to say that they should use similar colors, typography, and imagery. At the same time, each poster should be uniquely designed for its intended audience and context.

After you have created the three posters, you will write a short transmittal memo that explains your design process, justifies the choices you made for each poster (using what you’ve learned from course readings and discussions), and honestly addresses the challenges you faced during this project.


You are the social committee chair for the Zeta Theta Kappa fraternity (or sorority) at Mount Pinion University, and your annual Homecoming Carnival is coming up on Saturday, February 21, 2015. The carnival begins at 8:00 a.m. and runs until midnight, and there are a variety of events scheduled throughout the day.

Traditionally, the Homecoming Carnival has targeted students on campus, but this year the university president has challenged student organizations to reach out to alumni and community members to make the carnival “more inclusive and family friendly.”

The Student Government doesn’t want to alienate the college students that spend a lot of money at the Carnival, especially in the late evening hours. The carnival is also Zeta Theta Kappa’s biggest fundraiser, and since all student organizations split the carnival proceeds evenly, you really want to bring as many people as possible to this event.


After discussing the changes to this year’s carnival with your friends, you decide to make three different posters for the event:

(1) A poster targeting college students that emphasizes the many food booths at the carnival and the live performances by several bands that run from 7:00 p.m. to midnight.

(2) A poster targeting alumni that emphasizes their connection to campus and the free afternoon events (2:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.) designed specifically for those who haven’t been back to campus in a while (hot air balloon rides, tours of the newly completed athletic facility, etc.).

(3) A poster targeting local families that emphasizes the open nature of the carnival and the new morning-time (8:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.) games and activities at this year’s carnival (face painting, clowns, bounce house, etc.).

You have no budget for this event. Student organizations have an account at the university’s Copy Center, which can print on various colors of paper and using black-and-white or color printing. You plan to print 200–300 copies of each poster.


  • Each poster should be printed on one side of 8.5 x 11-inch paper.
  • You are free to choose the paper color and thickness, as well as the use of color or black-and-white printing.
  • In class, we will use Adobe InDesign and Photoshop to work on this project. However, you can elect to use another software program for your posters, if you are more comfortable with something else. (WARNING: Microsoft Word is an unwise choice for this assignment.)
  • Rough drafts of your posters will be required for a peer critique session during class (see our calendar for specific date). Failure to participate in the peer critique session will negatively impact your grade on this project.
  • Your transmittal memo (due with your project) should be roughly 400–600 words, single-spaced, using memo formatting. Think of this as a letter from you to me about your work on the project. For more information about writing a memo, including a sample, check out the Purdue OWL site.
  • You will submit printed copies of your posters and your memo to me during class time on the due date. You are also required to upload electronic copies (.PDFs) of your files to your shared Google Drive folder. (More on how to do this here.)


I will evaluate your essay using the following criteria, which you can also find on the rubric for this project:

Content. Do the posters contain adequate information about the event without overwhelming the reader with extraneous information? Is the content carefully targeted to the appropriate audience?

Consistency. Do the posters use the same typefaces, colors, etc., to achieve a unified visual appearance across all three documents?

Adaptation for Audience and Context. Does each poster target its specific audience and acknowledge the context in which it will be used?

Correctness. Do the posters and the memo adhere to the conventions of standard written English (spelling, punctuation, and grammar)?

Technical Proficiency. Do the posters show a basic level of proficiency with the software programs chosen by the designer?