30 stunning poster designs to inspire you


Poster design is a field where artists and designers can really get creative, trying out ideas that would be too flamboyant or over the top for other mediums. Posters sometimes go wrong, as we have seen, but when they go right, poster art can be truly inspiring.

Using posters for advertising and promotional purposes began back in the 1870s. Initially they were black and white and heavily text-based, but the introduction of Jules Cheret's three stone lithographic printing process meant artists could soon develop striking, colourful poster designs.

We've picked a varied selection of our favourite posters, with examples of both commercial releases and personal projects, iconic posters and more recent masterpieces.

The creatives who created these poster designs have experimented with illustration, typography, optical illusion, mixed-media, negative space and more. Let's start with some classics...

01. 1923 Bauhaus Exhibition in Weimar

Joost Schmidt’s 1923 Bauhaus Exhibition poster is a classic

Joost Schmidt’s now iconic poster for the 1923 Bauhaus Exhibition shows a cross comprised of circles and squares, and includes the Bauhaus logo designed by Oskar Schlemmer.

Produced for a competition, the poster had to incorporate the logo, exhibition information, venue details and the date. Schmidt was one of the pioneers of Bauhaus typography, and the original version of this poster was placed in 120 railway stations in Germany.

02. Metropolis

One of the surviving copies of Metropolis sold for a record £398,000 in 2005

German graphic artist and painter Heinz Schulz-Neudamm designed this art-deco poster for the premiere of Fritz Lang's groundbreaking 1927 sci-fi film Metropolis. Only four known surviving copies of the poster exist, one of which took the record for being the most expensive ever sold, after reaching a record price of £398,000 in London in 2005.

03. Lord Kitchener Wants You 

Widely known as Britons Wants You, this poster has iconic status

This hugely influential 1914 advertisement by Alfred Leete – often referred to as 'Britons Wants You' – became an icon of the enlistment frenzy in Britain during WWI. The poster features Lord Kitchener, the British secretary of state for war, above the words “wants you”, and set the tone for hundreds of copycat posters the world over.

04. Books

Influential designers like Paula Scher have been inspired by the constructivist movement

Russian constructivist Alexander Rodchenko experimented with graphic design after retiring from painting. Books combines photography and graphic design, and Rodchenko’s depiction of immediate communication is characteristic of official Soviet art of the period, which sought the best method of conveying the messages of the Communist state to the masses.

05. Thor: Ragnarok

The new Thor poster was unveiled as part of the San Diego Comic Con festivities

The official Thor: Ragnarok poster design was warmly received by designers and fans alike, thanks to its refreshing and sophisticated visuals. A psychedelic Photoshopped masterpiece, the poster harmoniously positions key characters to build a sense of excitement around the film. 

06. The Evil Dead

Ollie Moss' posters designs have gained a huge following

Illustrator Olly Moss is well known for his clever, minimalistic poster designs. As well as this officially licensed screenprinted poster for a 2010 screening of The Evil Dead, he’s also created posters for the Harry Potter posters, The Jungle Book, Star Wars Trilogy and more.

07. Stranger Things 

Kyle Lambert's Stranger Things poster is a modern classic

One of 2016's biggest TV events, Stranger Things came out of nowhere and grabbed everyone's attention thanks to its gripping supernatural story and pitch-perfect retro stylings, and Kyle Lambert's stunning poster was a vital part of the whole package. Briefed to create a 1980s-style poster reminiscent of classic, hand-painted movie artwork, he created this using an iPad Pro and Procreate; you can read about his process here.

08. Ford adaptive poster

Created by Ogilvy & Mather Istanbul, Ford's clever 'adaptive poster' was used to promote the company's new adaptive lighting technology. Using an optical illusion, the poster was designed to allow people to experience its Adaptive Front Lighting System that reacts to steering input when going round corners.

As the viewer moves around the multi-layered poster, the perspective shifts and allows the viewer to 'see' round the corner. It was launched in authorised Ford dealers and certain locations around Europe – and you can see how it was done in the video above.

09. Barack Obama 'Hope' poster

The Hope' poster was created in one day

With his roots in the skateboarding scene, South Carolina-born graphic designer and illustrator Shepard Fairey built a name for himself with his 'Andre the Giant' guerrilla sticker campaigns – but it was his involvement in the 2008 US Presidential election that really catapulted him towards global recognition.

Fairey's now-iconic Barack Obama 'Hope' poster, featuring a four-colour portrait of the then-Senator in red, beige, light and dark blue, also came in 'Change' and 'Progress' varieties, and was created in a day. Having started life as a screen-printed poster (which sold out almost immediately), the design spread virally across the United States and the rest of the world as a symbol of what American politics could potentially become.

The revelation the following year that Fairey had based the design on a photograph by Associated Press photographer Mannie Garcia without permission – and later admitted to destroying evidence in the ensuing legal battle with AP – led to community service and a hefty fine. Amongst designers, it's now as much a symbol of copyright infringement as it is a piece of political iconography. But whatever the circumstances of its creation, its influence during the election campaign was enormous.

10. IRIS

best movie posters 2015

The poster showcases Iris' love of fashion in the background

Created by Gravillis Inc, this poster for the IRIS movie is up there with one of the best ever. Putting Iris herself in black and white while showcasing her love of fashion in the background using bold and bright patterns is a clever and wholly original idea.

11. Le Chat Noir

Vintage posters Le Chat Noir

Le Chat Noir's iconic poster design has inspired over 100 years of poster design

Perhaps one of the most well known posters of all time, this iconic advertisement for the Parisian entertainment establishment, Le Chat Noir, was created by Swiss-born French Art Nouveau painter and printmaker, Théophile Steinlen.

It epitimises the Bohemian, Art Nouveau style and Cabaret culture of late nineteenth century Paris that stemmed from the legendary venue, which, in its heyday, served as an artist salon, music hall and busy nightclub.

12. The Look of Silence

best movie posters 2015

We love this illustrated effort

This film was made in 2014 but it wasn't released in the cinema until 2015, and was released with a more commercially viable poster – but this illustrated effort is our favourite. Look at that red!

13. We Can Do It!

Vintage posters We Can Do It

Feminists and others have seized upon the uplifting attitude to remake the image into many different forms

Perhaps one of the most iconic images of the 20th Century, American graphic designer, J. Howard Miller's beloved Rosie the Riveter was designed to boost morale in during WW2. This poster is still used today and re-modelled on everything from modern feminist texts to tattoos as well as spawning numerous parodies. His bold, modern illustrative style, mirrors the comic books popular at the time and defined an era of advertising.

14. Maze Runner: Scorch Trials

best movie posters 2015

Negative space reigns supreme with this poster design

Maze Runner: Scorch Trials was one of 2015's unheralded blockbusters and while it did release the usual offerings when it came to posters, this clever design makes use of negative space and we adore it. Putting the character in a test-tube like shape is also a great little inclusion of the plot.

15. Moulin Rouge

Vintage posters Moulin Rouge

French artist Toulouse-Lautrec captured Moulin Rouge characters perfectly in this poster design

This poster design for the Moulin Rouge is another by French artist Henri Toulouse-Lautrec. When the cabaret opened, Lautrec was commissioned to create a series of posters, with this design being one of his most well known. The piece features images of Moulin Rouge dancer La Goulue and her partner Valentin le Desosse. Lautrec captured La Goulue's provocative kicks and Valentin's lanky frame perfectly in this design.

16. Luke Drozd for the Green Man

uk art posters

Design by Luke Drozd

Gig posters are an arena in which graphic designers can really indulge their passion for both art and music. So, it's always a delight to see music festivals and designers coming together to produce something incredibly special; that's exactly what Green Man and the UK Poster Association have done here.

"The festival asked us to create a series of limited edition prints for some of the acts playing at the festival," explains designer Luke Drozd. "Eight acts were chosen in total, and they show the diversity of acts that are playing the festival as well as the diversity of talent exhibiting at the UKPA stall. Each poster was created as a limited edition A2 screen print."

17. Vintage Heroes

examples of retro posters

Avid gamer Grégoire Guillemin recreates his favourite superheroes

Comic book lover and avid gamer Grégoire Guillemin often creates superhero inspired designs and these minimalist vintage posters have hit the right spot when it comes to inspirational graphic design.

The likes of Batman, the Green Hornet and the Silver Surfer are all included in the retro re-imaginings. The gorgeous typography teamed with the brilliantly sketched superhero illustrations have had us falling head over heels for the series.

18. TWA

Vntage posters TWA

Artist David Klein used bright colours and abstract styles in many of his poster designs for TWA

American artist David Klein designed and illustrated dozens of posters for Howard Hughes’ Trans World Airlines (TWA) during the 1950s and 1960s. In 1957, this stunning TWA poster of New York City became part of the permanent collection of the MoMA (Museum of Modern Art) in NYC.

In many of Klein's designs, he used bright colours and shapes in an abstract style to depict famous landmarks and scenes of cities around the world. Best known for his influential work in the field of travel advertising, Klein's iconic images are much imitated.

19. Drive

In illustrator Peter Stults' Drive poster, James Dean takes the lead role, replacing Ryan Gosling

Illustrator and deisgner Peter Stults published a set of retro poster designs with a twist. His awesome 'What if' series explores what if movies we're all familiar with were made with a different slice of time? Who would be in it and direct it?

Our favourite was this Drive poster, with James Dean as the lead male role. Other designs include alternate posters for Pulp Fiction, Groundhog Day, and 2001: A Space Odyssey.

20. Call Me Lucky

best movie posters 2015

Jesse Vital created the illustration for this poster design

We love it when illustration is given centre stage with movie posters and this one for 'Call Me Lucky' is an absolute delight to look at. Minimal colours and an intricate execution, the design was conjured up by Vodka Creative, with Jesse Vital taking care of the artwork itself.

21. Harper's

Vintage posters Harper s

This is just one of 75 poster designs Edward Penfield illustrated for Harper's Magazine during the late 1800s

It's impossible to talk about American poster design without mentioning graphic artist Edward Penfield. Often referred to as a master of graphic design, it was during a school exhibition that Penfield's work was first noticed by the art editor of Harper's Magazine, the company that he went go on to create no less than 75 poster designs for.

22. We Are Your Friends

best movie posters 2015

Neon colours are used to showcase the film's clubbing storyline

While the movie itself didn't exactly receive rave reviews, we adore this poster design from The Refinery. Using neon colours to mimic the film's clubbing and rave culture storyline, the vintage-like illustration of the main character really makes this one pop.

23. The Lobster

best movie posters 2015

Artist Vasilis Marmatakis also created the title sequence for Dogtooth

Who couldn't stop and stare at this one?! Showing the characters embracing empty sillouhettes of each other, the design was courtesy of artist Vasilis Marmatakis. Marmatakis has also crafted the titles for Dogtooth as well as working on a range of other movie posters.

24. Berlin 1936 Olympic Games

1936 Olympic poster

The imposing nature of the poster is heightened by the historical context

The 1936 Games was dominated by propoganda, as Hitler grasped the opportunity to promote the Nazi line of Aryan racial superiority. Thankfully, the black athlete Jesse Owens won four gold medals, and made Hitler look pretty stupid.

But one thing's for sure: the poster for the event, designed by Franz Würbel, managed to promote the event brilliantly; showcasing one of Berlin's most iconic landmarks and keeping the Führer happy in the process - something 44 of Germany's finest artists had failed before him.

25. Absinthe Robette

Vintage posters Absinthe

Belgian posterist Henri Privat-Livemont created this beautiful Art Nouveau print for Absinthe in 1896

In the late 19th Century, the popularity of Absinthe coincided with the increase of large lithographic advertising posters as a commercial and artistic medium. Some of the greatest artists of that period created posters for the alcoholic beverage, including Belgian posterist Henri Privat-Livemont, who illustrated this iconic Art Nouveau Absinthe Robette image in 1895.

26. It Follows

best movie posters 2015

A brilliantly illustrated poster from Akiko Stehrenberger

Everyone knows that making a character stare directly at you with a movie poster is bound to get it some attention. Brilliantly illustrated by Akiko Stehrenberger, the artist has crafted posters for a huge range of indie and commercial releases – it's easy to see why.

27. Monaco 75

Vintage posters Monaco 75

This beautiful design was created by artist Michael Turner for the 1975 Monaco Grand Prix

This striking design for the 1975 Monaco Grand Prix was created by talented artist Michael Turner. With minimal type, Turner let his illustration do all the talking, using a vibrant and eye-catching colour palette, the car takes centre stage with the beautiful destination of Monaco in the background.

28. The NeverEnding Story

Neverending story poster

Renato Casaro’s poster for The NeverEnding Story captured the film’s magic using tempera and a bit of airbrushing on cardboard

Today, it's easy to see photos of the characters being montaged together, much like the posters for The Lord of the Rings films. But where would be the fun in that? Renato Casaro, who painted over 1,500 posters during his career, including those for The NeverEnding Story, believes that without the hand of an artist, today's posters are often devoid of that touch of magic.

29. Air New Zealand

Air New Zealand vintage posters

The posters provide an excellent history of the developments in aviation

When Air New Zealand celebrated its 75th birthday, the company dug out some of its best poster designs. The posters provide a history of the developments in aviation, as they move from advertising solent flying boats (which flew a maximum of 36 lucky passengers at a time) to modern 737s.

The vibrant Technicolor design provide an interesting contrast with modern advertisement methods – a clear reflection of how things have changed in the last 75 years.

30. 1,462 Days of Trump

Use this poster to mark off every day of the Trump era, like you would a prison sentence

Donald Trump is president of the USA and will be in office for the next four years. As Kurt McGhee has calculated, that's 1,462 days, and he's created this poster to ram that fact home and to give you some minimal therapy as you cross off every day that passes. "It may not seem that long until you see that amount of time in days," he says. "No matter who it is, a lot can go wrong in 1462 days."

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