Stop designing websites, start designing posters

Paul Boag

A new generation of websites are emerging that look less like websites and more like posters. They are easy to use, visually engaging and most of all different.

Sometimes I think I am deeply conflicted. On one side I am always going on about how print is not like the web and web designers need to stick to conventions.

On the other hand I feel inspired to be more creative in my work and take some risks. I am bored with the same old approach to websites.

In one recent post I wrote:

Too many websites look the same as their competition. If you want users to remember your site it needs to stand out from the crowd.

How then can we be different and yet still ensure our websites are usable?

Looking to the poster for inspiration

One way to remain usable and yet be different, is to look for inspiration beyond the web. For example, look at print designs that have to grab people’s attention and communicate a lot of information quickly.

One example of this is printed posters.

Posters have to be:

  • Visually attractive in order to grab attention.
  • Easy to take in at a glance
  • Provide more information to the more interested reader

In other words they need to be…

  • Engaging
  • Usable
  • Scanable
  • Have a clear information hierarchy

Sound familiar? Websites face exactly the same challenges.

Take a look at these posters below. Each is visually striking, provides key information first but has additional information for those interested. This is how we should approach web design.

DJ Andy Smith Poster

Art Attack 2006 Poster

Paris Je Taime Poster

Animals are not clowns

Morgellons Disease

Urban Typography

Using poster design on the web

You maybe looking at these and wondering how this approach can be applied to the web. After all, they don’t have much in the way of content.

Setting aside the fact that most websites have far too much content and need to be simplified, it is not impossible even with more content.

In fact a lot of web designers have already taken inspiration from poster design. Here are just a few from my inspiration library.

Flourish Web Design

Flourish Web Design

Groovy Web Design

Groovy Web Design

Kitschen Sink

Kitschen Sink



Lana Landis

Lana Landis



Carsonified Events

Carsonified Events

Noel Design

Noel Design

Personally I find this new generation of websites encouraging. It demonstrates an advance in the aesthetics of the web without undermining the principles of usability.

These designers should be commended for their desire to push the boundaries of traditional web design and for looking beyond the web for inspiration. They should be commended for rejecting the myth of the fold.

What about you?

So have I inspired you? Do you think that we can learn from the print design world or are the two worlds too different? Post your thoughts in the comments.