What Do Poster Designers Do? 2024 Career Guide

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Learn what poster design is and how to work as a poster designer. Discover the necessary skills, qualifications, types of employment, and salary.

[Featured image] A poster designer is working on designing artwork.

Poster designers design and print artistic posters for musicians, concert promoters, bands, brewery owners, and others looking for ways to share information with customers.

A poster designer can also work for graphic design firms or government agencies under different titles like production artist, graphic artist, and illustrator. 

A career in poster design involves skills that overlap with sales, marketing, art, and publishing. In this role, you must be organized, creative, and able to attract your target audience. 

What do poster designers do?

Poster designers’s day-to-day work may include: 

  • Meeting with clients to learn details of upcoming events

  • Creating artwork to meet the needs of clients

  • Advertising their art through social media

  • Coordinating screen printing 

  • Shipping printed posters to clients sometimes within tight deadlines

  • Creating digital versions for online advertising

  • Pitching partnerships with local festivals, bands, breweries, concert promoters, and more

History of poster design

In the mid-19th century, executives in the music and entertainment industry commissioned artists to produce eye-catching posters to advertise upcoming events. They would print the posters using the newly invented three-tone lithographic process and use glue to hang them in public spaces like walls throughout cities. 

Aspiring poster designers may be familiar with Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and his famous work advertising the Moulin Rouge in the late 1800s. With time, this art nouveau poster design style transitioned to art deco, and later, with the advent of American rock and roll, pop, and psychedelic art. 


Is poster design the same as graphic design?

Poster design is a type of graphic design. Poster artists utilize graphic design and usually have more flexibility and freedom beyond traditional marketing methods. The current focus on digital advertising offers opportunities for interactivity and dynamic designs that could transform poster art in new ways. 

Here are some similarities between poster design and graphic design:

1. Both graphic and poster artists must consider the goal in their design.

2. Designs must connect with the target audience.

3. Colors, images, font, and format must echo the client’s brand.

4. Graphic design best practices, such as visual hierarchy, high-resolution images, and proper alignment, can also ensure pleasing aesthetics.

Read more: Graphic Artist vs. Graphic Designer: Understanding the Difference

Iconic poster designs

During World War II, the government commissioned artists to make propaganda posters like the famous Rosie the Riveter. In the 1960s, psychedelic rock bands like The Grateful Dead employed artists to share their vibe with music lovers with some unforgettable posters. In the 1980s, Neon Noir and Neo-Art Deco styles took over poster design.


Essential skills for a poster designer 

To work as a poster designer, you’ll need technical and creative skills to be successful. Many of the technical skills are compatible with graphic design.


Font styles are crucial elements of poster design. When designing a poster, some best practices include using complementary serif and sans serif fonts with the exception of the title, which can be a creative font. You can find examples with an internet search and on Canva and Adobe InDesign. 

The font choices should be balanced, eye-pleasing, and easy to read. Canva offers templates with set typography that you may use for your work. 


A color wheel is a helpful tool that helps poster designers choose colors to create a focal point. The four color schemes are:

  • Monochromatic: Shades of a single color  

  • Analogous: Colors combinations that are next to each other on the color wheel 

  • Complementary: Colors opposite each other on the color wheel 

  • Split complementary: Equidistant hues on the color wheel 

Visual hierarchy 

The arrangement of the elements arrangement for poster presentation is known as the hierarchy. Everything from negative space and font spacing to color and contrast helps a poster be appealing to the viewer. 

Creative flair

Poster designers apply different styles and designs through inspiration from past work or new ideas. As a poster designer, you’ll need to be creative since clients may want to see a few concepts before moving forward with a poster.

Mastery of different artistic media

A poster designer may work with markers, paint, paper, canvas, or computer software tools like Adobe Creative Cloud and Canva to design. Whichever medium you choose, you’ll need to be able to produce the client’s designs.

Here are some common graphic design tools:

  • Procreate

  • Adobe Express

  • Canva

  • Figma


While poster design differs from graphic design, good poster artists incorporate graphic design principles. This includes understanding color palettes, typography and font pairing, and balancing images, copy, and white space on the poster. While the music industry often leans toward nontraditional art, conveying a message to a target audience is still important.   

Knowledge of screen printing

Professional poster designers often work with digital printing companies to make copies of posters for clients. However, music posters use screen printing technology to reproduce them. Understanding how it works (including the kinds of paper and ink used) will make it easier to work effectively within deadlines.  

Ability to collaborate

Poster designers tend to work alone during the creation process. However, you’ll also need to network with prospective clients, collaborate with musicians, and connect with concert promoters. You need to communicate your visions clearly, schedule meetings, and sometimes change directions according to the client’s needs.

Ability to work independently

Most professional poster designers are often self-employed. You’ll be responsible for producing artwork and marketing your skills. It’s essential to double-check your work and learn new techniques to keep your art within the trends. You’ll need to quote a price for your time, invoice clients, and maintain financial records for tax purposes. Strong organizational skills and discipline will help keep you on track.

Qualifications needed to become a poster designer 

Unlike graphic designers at publishing or marketing companies, poster designers typically work independently and don’t need a formal degree to break into the industry. 

Instead, the qualifications to become a poster artist follow an artist’s career path. Poster designers typically build a branding recognition and fan base, pitch work to artists or concert promoters, and gain more prominent clients that pay more over time.

Having an active social media account and website to display your portfolio may be a good idea. Including a mood board in your portfolio can also show cohesiveness with fonts, images, patterns, textures, and color. Portfolios are a great way to showcase your artwork to future employers. 

What jobs are available?

Many jobs involve creating posters for specific events in the music and entertainment industry. It can be a single assignment or a series, based on your portfolio, expertise, and partnership with your client. You can find some jobs with marketing graphic design firms, advertising agencies, and in the government. Other jobs may include designs for:

  • Events held at independent breweries

  • Music festival announcements 

  • Record store events

  • School and sports posters and banners 

How much do poster designers make?

Poster designers in the US earn an average base salary of $42,340 per year, according to Glassdoor [1].

As you gain experience and connections within the industry, you may work with musicians and promoters with larger budgets and bigger exposure. This will allow you to earn more over time. 

Career development opportunities

To begin a career as a poster designer, you’ll need to be comfortable with the basic tools and demands within the industry you’re working. An online course can help you practice and hone art skills as you build a portfolio. Coursera Project Network offers a guided course on Designing a Music Festival Poster on Adobe Illustrator that can get you started. 

Get started

To work as a poster designer, you’ll need graphic design skills to help companies convey their message to target audiences. Get started with the Graphic Design Specialization course offered by the California Institute of the Arts, a beginner program that you can typically complete in six months. Or consider the Fundamentals of Graphic Design course,  which exposes you to the basic principles of graphic design, and learn techniques for designing posters.  

Article sources

  1. Glassdoor. "Poster Design Salaries, https://www.glassdoor.com/Salaries/poster-design-salary-SRCH_KO0,13.htm." Accessed November 27, 2022.

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