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Creating Effective Large-Format Graphics

(September 2008) posted on Wed Sep 24, 2008

It takes more than artistic talent to create effective large-format graphics. You also need to have a firm handle on the way big promotional images are perceived and how to use various design elements to make them grab the attention of viewers. Presented here are a few basic rules that, when followed, will result in graphics that print correctly and deliver their promotional message effectively.

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By Benjamin Lawless

When dealing with large-format graphics, there is always one problem that consistently rears its ugly head: Many people can’t visualize what the final graphic will look like. Most often, it is just too difficult to wrap your brain around the actual size of the graphic. Most computer monitors are between 17 and 24 in., whereas almost all large-format graphics are 3 x 5 ft or larger. Sure you can squint at your monitor from across the room, but that can’t possibly give you a decent sense of scale when it comes right down to it.

I’ve already mentioned the importance of legibility and simplicity in large-format design. Unfortunately, without a decent perception of size, you’re taking a crap shoot with the marketing campaign. Whether it’s a client, a boss, or coworkers or freelancers, everyone involved in the marketing efforts needs to have the same idea about what impact the design should have. If you’re dealing with a large-budget marketing campaign, the entire crew should be able to speak using the same visual vocabulary.

The best way to prevent a major marketing catastrophe is to create a real sized mock-up. I cannot stress the importance of this particular solution enough. It doesn’t matter what you use, whether it’s the actual substrate on which you’ll print the graphic or a bunch of taped-together butcher paper. It may sound a little childish, but if the graphic isn’t too big, grab some markers and draw a rough draft of your design’s layout right on it. This is a good excuse to keep an eye on your text sizes, determining what size the different elements need to be for good effect.

An even more accurate preview can be created using a product such as Rasterbator ( This free tool allows you to upload any image, and it will enlarge it and provide it as a multipage PDF document. You then just print the PDF pages on any desktop printer and tape the pages together into a single large-format graphic that should accurately represent your graphic at a more respectable size.


Consider where the graphic will be placed


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