Are you looking for a way to make your design look even better? Well, typography may be the key to success and proper visual communication.

The crazy thing is that even typography and type have their own set of rules and these rules need to be abided by for your art to look “right.” Most people like to break the rules, but after reading this, you will see why typography rules should be abided by.

One other point to consider about typography is that if you intend to become a graphic designer or movie poster creator, you will have to have an excellent grasp of typography…and be sure your portfolio reflects that!

And speaking of movie posters, most examples and advice below pertain to them. After all, most posts on this website are geared toward poster design.

The Do’s:

This is what you need to do in order to make your typography work!

Do Choose Based On Personality

The personality of a typeface is responsible for the emotional reaction it generates on the reader. Both the meaning of a sentence and the font’s personality used to write it will influence how the message is interpreted.

A typeface can look professional, playful, artistic, or even scary.

So, especially when using typography to design some visual communication or a movie poster, you must always choose fonts that have a matching personality with the message you are trying to convey.

When the match is weak, the outcome can be quite confusing and disappointing. But when the match is good, the whole design is improved as a result. 

Style Type

Do Get Creative

Typography is as strong an element of design as images can be.

How the title of a movie is written can either be forgotten immediately or remembered to the point of impacting on the whole merchandising campaign of a previously known product (remember how the name “Harry Potter” used to appear on the book covers when the typeface from the movies didn’t exist yet? Me neither, nobody does).

You must always try to capture the essence of a concept when coming out with the best design to display it, and with movie posters, it is no different: a small detail in the typeface (such as lightning in the descender stem of a P) can help create a lasting impression on the viewer.  

There are plenty of reasons why type plays such a significant part in movie poster designs, and we discuss that in this article:

Do Make Optical Corrections

There is no case at all in which a decent designer will simply choose a font and use it without checking (and fixing when necessary) the leading, the tracking, and the kerning of the final design.

While the leading controls the spacing between two successive lines of text, the tracking regulates the spacing between the letters of a word, so it is neither too big nor too small. A good designer will always make sure the leading corresponds to the size of the font used. And what about the kerning?

Kerning is what separates newbies from professionals.

A newcomer to the world of design is very likely to believe that the space between two specific letters is completely irrelevant.

Still, a true designer would never spare the necessary optical corrections, even to that level of detail. The same goes for orphans and widows: in an experienced designer’s work, it is rare to find lonely lines separated from the rest of the text.

Quick reminders:

  • Leading: the vertical distance between words/type.
  • Tracking: the spacing between letters evenly across the whole word.
  • Kerning: the adjusting of space between 2 letters.
Fairey Wall

Do Make Sure There Are No Unnecessary Spaces

Now, even if you master the arts of leading, tracking, and kerning, you still need to check for unnecessary spaces between two words or after a period.

It may sound like a silly piece of advice, but it is such an easy mistake to make that you might as well try to look out for it and correct it when there’s still time, instead of discovering it once the text has already been printed!

Do Prioritize The Bigger Picture:

Typography is an essential element of design, but it is not the only one. The types you choose does not only work combined with the images around them but also interact with each other.

It is your job as a designer to create combinations of different types that are consistent and engaging.

Your responsibility is to give your movie poster a solid structure: you must pay attention to the color palette you use for the overall design, keep in mind the kind of general effect you are trying to provoke, and remember that not all typeface personalities are compatible. 

Do Use Caps

When it comes to the design of film posters, there is a major difference between editorial design, branding, and advertisement in general.

In the movie poster industry, capital letters are your friends.

You know when you read a text that your grandma wrote, and she’s not really that big on technology, and suddenly it’s all caps, and you feel like she’s shouting at you?

That happens because it is uncommon for us to read texts in all upper cases. Most mediums in which lots of text appears (such as books, magazines, apps, and websites) make a strong case of using caps only when needed. In movie posters, the opposite happens. It is actually quite tricky to find a poster with the information in lower case.

WE ASSOCIATE CAPS WITH SHOUTING, and movie posters actually really want to call out for your attention. 

Do Take The Alignment Into Consideration

The alignment determines if a block of text will be left-aligned, centered, right-aligned, or justified when horizontally displayed on a page.

It is widely accepted for justified alignment in long text blocks to be the most gentle format to the reader’s eye because even edges make the reading process way easier.

But in designs that involve less text and more images -such as movie posters- the designer can get way more creative. It is widespread for movie posters to have centered titles, but some are more innovative and align the titles to the left or even display it diagonally.

There’s quite a lot of text that needs to be included nowadays in movie posters. The alignment of those pieces of text has a subtle but very relevant impact on the final composition’s general balance. 

The Don’ts

There are plenty of things not to do when it comes to typography, and these are the major ones. With the knowledge below, you should see your design work flourish.

Don’t Use Too Many Typefaces

The number of possibilities we currently have when choosing typefaces can be so exciting that it’s easy to get carried away.

You might end up with a poster that uses one typeface for the actor’s names, a different one for the copy, another one for the title, an extra one for the director’s name, some other for the billing, and yet a new one for the release date… if reading about it already feels chaotic and excessive, imagine seeing it in a design.

It is probably not a good idea to do that.

Sometimes using many variations (in color, size, weight, and style) of the same typeface can be way more effective because the fonts’ personalities will remain very similar.

The title of a movie tends to be the one element that requires a different and very distinctive typeface so that one and maximum of two others should be more than enough to create an exciting yet organized composition.

Don’t Mix Your Terminology

You got a little confused while reading the previous tip because you don’t really know the difference between a font and a typeface or between size and weight? Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered; this has already been explained in a previous article of this blog called “6 Most Important Typography Principles | Movie Poster.”

Now, you don’t have to become a typography expert and spend years of your life studying the theory behind it, but learning some basic categories that you will use constantly, is undoubtedly a good idea.

Knowing the different terms that are typically used when discussing typography will make your life easier when designing.

Don’t Compromise The Legibility

When designing a movie poster, you won’t come across that often with the widespread problem of choosing an easily readable font for a long body text.

In movie posters, only the billing is quite long, and designers tend to fuze it as much as possible with the background to prioritize the image over the text.

But still, for the rest of the written elements in the poster -and most of all for the title- legibility is critical.

Remember that your target audience doesn’t have all day to analyze your poster; therefore, your design needs to be understandable at first glance, which leads us to the next tip…

Don’t Forget About Contrast

When seeing something from a distance, the human eye will merge the elements similar in color and/or shape. As a designer, you can’t allow the visual information to get mixed up with the written one.

If the words in the poster don’t stand out in relation to the photographs behind them, it will be tough for the public to understand the whole.

The way to avoid this from happening is by getting very familiar with the concept of contrast. There must always be a visible difference between the color of the title and the background colors.

It is also good if there is some contrast between the font used for the title and the ones used for other information regarding the film. An old trick in the book is to use a Sans Serif font for the title and a Serif style for longer pieces of text to create a visual difference.

Don’t Plagiarize

As a designer, you must always be aware of the license and ownership of all the typefaces, photographs, and illustrations that you use.

What differentiates fan art from professional work is that the latter can be sold without breaking copyright laws. The fonts and logos of big movie franchises can be recognized because they are unique, and they are unique because other moviemakers are not allowed to use them in their own projects.

We go into great detail on copyright and fan art, but it also covers the general idea of how the copyright law is applied. This is a highly suggested article.

The good news is that there are many amazing free typefaces available on the internet; if you are creative enough, you can work with them to create something good, or even better: you can design your own fonts for your projects.

If you want to see a collection of useable fonts, then you will want to check out Google Fonts.

Oh yeah, if you are interested in licensing intellectual property for your fan art, then you may want to check out this link.

Don’t Stretch Type

Alongside the proper use of kerning and the knowledge on copyright, how a designer changes a word’s size for a specific project is the third most obvious way of telling if such a designer is an amateur or a pro.

Typography is an art, even if it doesn’t appear to be so. Typographers create new typefaces considering a whole background of experience concerning visual communication, psychology, and design.

Every new -professionally made- typeface is released to the world after a long visual correction process.

When you go and stretch said type in Photoshop, all that previous design work gets utterly destroyed. The original proportions of the typeface don’t survive after being stretched, and that has a visible effect on the aesthetics of the new version.

The proper way of getting your words into a bigger or smaller size is to download the typeface that you are using if you don’t already have it, and to modify the size in an editable text (and always remember to alter the kerning when you think it is necessary!).

Don’t Give All Elements The Same Importance

Last but not least (for this advice not only applies to movie posters but all design in general), your composition’s different elements must always be arranged on a clear hierarchy.

Movies have protagonists, which means that movie posters will portray specific characters in more prominent positions.

Movies also have titles and well-known actors and directors, which implies that movie posters need to have different hierarchy levels when it comes to displaying that written information.

The typography design will determine which pieces of text will be bigger and more striking than the others in order to make it easy and aesthetically pleasant for the reader to do a visual tour around the poster.

Where to Learn More?

Well, Poster Grind is currently coming up with an online course to show our students how to design movie posters and fan art. The lessons are in production now and won’t be ready for a while, and that’s why we want to encourage you to check out our YouTube channel with plenty of tutorials on typography and poset design.

Also, be sure to sign up for our newsletter, as our subscribers are the first to know when classes drop. Don’t worry; we won’t spam you with BS.