By Maria Jose.
Dream big. Success. Walk the talk. Challenge yourself.
When it comes to designing a motivational poster, the slogan is key.
If you’ve spent any of your life in a dentist’s chair, you might’ve spent that time staring up at a ceiling plastered with motivational posters designed in the early ‘90s that only a dentist could find motivating.
We’re not focussed on those in this article. We’re here to inspire you, not put you to sleep. We’ve curated 20 of the best new-age motivational posters we could find. They meet two criteria: (1) They’re well designed; and, (2) They’re packed with a good dose of motivation.
Use the free Canva templates
You’ll come across motivational Canva poster templates throughout this article. Clicking on these will open the template in your own Canva account, for you to customize and pin around your room or office.
To know which ones are customizable Canva templates, look for the “Edit this design in Canva” caption on the right.
01. Engage the senses by varying the text size
Make viewers look twice by creating visual illusions. You can design them from scratch or build them based off something, like an eye chart.
Find the phrase above hard to read? Vary text size but do so on a single word as we’ve done above.
02. Design a Minimalist Poster
I feel like every time I walk into a design studio or agency I find a minimalist motivational poster on the wall. Sophisticated, stunning and of course, black and white, they seem to always be a win.
If you want to create a minimalist poster, use only what is essential. We’ve shared one of our templates above. If it’s not right for you, take a look at the Canva template library. We’ve a few more minimalist solutions up our sleeve.
03. Work with Shapes
Shapes can be great design elements or building blocks for illustrations. Above, a few shapes turn into a sweet illustration for the poster we showcase.
Whatever you choose to make with shapes can be abstract too. We’ve gone this route in the template we provide above, ready for you to make your own.
04. Add Stylized Illustrations
No imagery to work with? No problem! Styled illustrations are lovely. I also enjoy working with them because, unlike photographs, I can make the characters in my illustrations do as I please. If a segment of the illustration doesn’t work particularly well, I can always alter it.
What style you choose to work with is up to you. Above, we’ve chosen to work with playful graphics and colors for a fun feel.
05. Use a Color Overlay
Color overlay works especially well when you’ve got an image that isn’t of the highest quality. Now, Gandhi’s image below is absolutely lovely. If, however, you’re not as lucky as the designer working with it, a color filter can quickly solve your problems.
It can also work as a great design element, helping add visual interest to any poster. While the example and template we’ve shown stick to one color, I like working with a couple.
06. Brighten it up with flowers
But not just any flowers. Flowers, just like colors have meanings. Brush up on floriography, or the language of flowers, and tie your choice to your message. Roses’ meaning, for example, depends on its color as well as their number.
Floral elements can make dreamy backgrounds. If you’ve no time to study the language of flowers, give our template above a shot.
07. Fuse the design elements with the letterforms
Creating depth within your composition isn’t complicated. Intertwining your letterforms and design elements will do the trick. It’ll also create a slick look showcased in the poster below.
We’ve seen quite a few pieces out there that layer flowers, fruits, or even ballet dances to create the illusion of depth. Above you’ll find a template that steers clear of all those elements and uses bursts of color instead.
08. Give it a Vintage Feel
The past always has something good to offer. This is especially true when it comes to design. In fact, we love vintage everything so much that we’ve been riding the vintage trend for quite some time now.
Vintage doesn’t have to be limited to your poster’s feel—you can include vintage imagery in it as well. The template will surely put make anyone who’s ever recorded a cassette smile and reminisce.
09. Create an Illusion
Your poster’s copy doesn’t have to sit idly on a background. Fully integrating it into it can make your poster feel dynamic and fun, like Doaly’s poster above.
The poster is actually part of a series of movie posters Doaly worked on. You can see them all here.
Like the approach? We’ve pulled a great template from our library that does the same. Instead of bricks, however, we’ve used fresh white paint.
10. Use an Accent Color
Accent colors can direct a viewer’s eye, highlight important detail or can simply be used to add a lovely detail to a composition. Tang Yau Hoong created the poster above and quite a few more. He showcases them all here.
Motivational posters often revolve around a killer quote. To prioritize it and place it high up in our poster’s hierarchy, we’ve used an accent color to set it. Do the same with your poster and remember, if yellow isn’t among your brand colors, swap it out.
11. Check Out Vintage Letterforms
Vintage letterheads are a great source of inspiration. Their intricate details and stacked type have given way to many stunning pieces today, all hugely similar to the poster above.
Vintage inspired letterforms don’t have to be as complex though. You can leave out much of their beautiful detail and still have gorgeous shapes.
12. No space for negative space
We’re huge proponents of the use of negative/white space in design. Leaving some bits of the canvas bare is crucial to good design. Once in awhile, however, we’ll stumble upon great pieces like Emil Kozak’s above that’ll use up every inch of the canvas.
We’ve done our very best in the template above to leave no space for negative space. If you find the typeface a bit tough to read, try setting it in white or swapping it for a heavier weight.
13. Work with Outlines
Like we’ve said before, small details can make a huge difference. Below, the folded corner of the page illustrated in outlines is slightly angled, unlike most other similar illustrations. And because it is, it seems to be pointing directly towards the motivational quote, drawing attention to it. Pretty clever.
You can use your illustrations cleverly or purely as visual elements that add the perfect finishing touch. Above, we’ve balanced out our poster using a light bulb icon. It helps balance out composition but ties in beautifully with the quote we’re working with.
14. Slice ‘em Up
They’re especially interesting applied to letterforms themselves. Above, they add movement and visual interest to the word “destruction.”
While the sliced up letterforms are interesting enough to stand alone, the red “o” is the perfect finishing touch.
Sharp/chiseled/dynamic edges are just as engaging applied elsewhere. They’re particularly great for backgrounds. Those featuring sharp angles, like our above, are particularly popular lately.
15. Consider Playful illustrations
Tell a short story with them like above or let them stand alone. Your illustrations don’t have to be complex and detailed either. You can design something great using just basic shapes.
If you’re not confident in your illustration abilities just yet, browse through our library’s graphics. Mix and match them to design something quickly.
Or don’t. Use one of our finished illustrative templates, like the one above. Many of the components we use to build them can be edited individually. So, if the colors we’ve gone with don’t fit your brands, adjust them with a few clicks.
16. Bold text for a bold statement
My all time favorite typeface to use when I’m going for something along the lines of the Nike poster below is Knockout. It’s not only great for loud, bold pieces, though. With 32 sans-serifs in its family, the vast collection is extremely versatile.
Back to the winning poster above. My favorite aspect isn’t the bold text. It’s the loud red element that boldly hints at the classic ribbon we see marking finish lines.
Push a bold design further by pairing loud text with loud colors. Use one or two hues. What’s key is going with options that are bright and eye-catching.
17. Convey grit
And bold character. The feeling pairs perfectly with motivational posters. Do so using a dark background and bright type, like Insando does above.
Texture and high contrast can also help convey grit. In our template, we’ve paired an expressive typeface and textured design elements with them too. To make sure our content doesn’t get lost on the dark background, we went with a bright hue.
18. Use a Script
I’m a sucker for beautiful letterforms, especially those in script faces. The movement their many curves and swashes create is mesmerizing. Because they’re so decorative, they’re often all you need to create a killer poster.
Beautiful letterforms aren’t easy to create, though. It takes years and much practice to master the art. Don’t have the time? Make use of the scripts we’ve loaded into our library and templates designed around them.
19. Box it in
Box it in literally. Setting your content within a medium weight frame and going heavy on your kerning will help you create a modern feel, like the one characterizing the poster above.
Making sure your elements help your composition feel balanced is key. Consider the slick example below. If we removed the stroke on its top left-hand corner, it would feel bottom heavy. If we removed the signature on the bottom right-hand corner as well, the poster would lose its charm. Small details can make a huge difference.
We tend to center frames and confine them to the margins of our layouts. While the tried and true visual solution works perfectly, we broke away from it above. To create eye-catching asymmetry, we left-align our frame and let it fall of our page.
20. Say it with icons
A picture is worth a thousand words. The aphorism reigns true, even when we’re working with small, graphic pictures aka icons. Icons are great because they communicate so much so easily.
Getting creative with them can also add an element of fun to your design, as show above. The little varying animal paws and hooves certainly do so.
If you’re thinking about going this route with your poster, aim to create a consistent set of icons. To do so, keep styling among every icon in your set consistent. Note how we’ve done so above, by using the same colors and line weight on all our icons.
By Maria Jose
Maria is a professional designer and social media devotee. After a few years of working in boutique agencies in New York and Boston, she decided to trade in her morning runs for morning dives and moved down to the warm Caribbean. She is currently working on becoming a scuba instructor in order to find a way to merge her two loves: design and the ocean.