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Printing Industry Exchange ( is pleased to have Steven Waxman writing and managing the Printing Industry Blog. As a printing consultant, Steven teaches corporations how to save money buying printing, brokers printing services, and teaches prepress techniques. Steven has been in the printing industry for thirty-three years working as a writer, editor, print buyer, photographer, graphic designer, art director, and production manager.

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Custom Printing: Small Posters Can Still Be Awesome

I installed a box office cling yesterday for the movie standee installation company for which my fiancee and I work. It couldn’t have been larger than 8.5” x 11”, but I’ll bet that everyone who buys a ticket for any movie at these three theaters will see this particular poster.

A Description of the Poster

First of all, this small poster is a bold, colorful ad for American Ultra. The movie seems to be fun and flashy, about a stoner teen who is unaware that he has been trained by the CIA to be a killing machine. If you look at the hairstyles in the small poster; the clothing; even the red, white, blue, and yellow color scheme; you’re likely to get flashbacks from the ’60s. It has that kind of a vibe.

From a purely technical point of view, the poster comprises a layer of adhesive, then a four-color image, then what appears to be a white layer, then a clear plastic substrate. So it’s not technically speaking a static cling. Rather the adhesive (on the face as opposed to the back of the cling) makes the poster stick to the box office window interior, facing outward. It also appears to be repositionable, since I had to adjust the poster a bit. What this means is that the glue is adequate for adhesion but forgiving as well.

Why the Poster Works

In the real estate business, they say that the three most important aspects of a property are “location, location, and location.” I would extend this concept to advertising (or more specifically a poster). This particular poster (as per the requirements of the movie standee installation company) had to be affixed to the box office window. What that means is that everyone who buys a ticket for any movie in that particular theater will see the poster for American Ultra.

The Power of the “Field of Vision”

If you hold your tablet computer up close and watch a movie, it will totally absorb you, even though the screen is rather small. That’s because the color and motion capture your entire field of vision. The movie screen doesn’t have to be very large to do this. It just has to be close enough that your eyes don’t really see anything else in the room.

If the screen is farther away, it has to be larger to capture your attention. When I was growing up, the movie theaters were much larger than they are today (same size building, but usually only one or two screening rooms). Since the rooms were larger and we were farther from the screen, the screen had to be huge to capture our field of vision.

In the case of the American Ultra box office cling, since the poster is affixed to the ticket booth window at roughly eye level, and since you’re up close when you buy a ticket to the show, it can be this small and still grab you.

Compare this to a larger standee, perhaps even a flat card easel with a stand (essentially a large format print poster seen from a distance of ten feet or more). Such a poster has to be large, maybe 8 feet by 10 feet, to get the necessary “Wow” effect.

The Benefits of a Small Poster

Keep in mind that once a movie poster, banner, or standee has been designed, printed, and diecut, it must be packed up, sent to the movie theaters, and installed. Everyone gets a slice of the payment, so the total cost can add up quickly. An 80-pound unassembled standee can cost a lot just to mail, let alone assemble once it’s in the theater.

In contrast, the American Ultra box office cling fits in an envelope. Maybe it costs a dollar or two to mail. The installation cost is minimal: on the lowest end of the scale relative to banners or standees. So the cost to create, distribute, and install such an item is negligible compared to that of the huge standee for Walking with Dinosaurs (comprising a graphic panel and an animatronic dinosaur eye that moves back and forth).

Yet the American Ultra cling packs a punch because of its location, at eye level, up close, and because of its brilliant primary colors and stoner imagery. Hal Rudnick of ScreenJunkies even has a quote on the poster: “It’s as if Jason Bourne and Pineapple Express had a baby.” This quote seals the deal.

What We Can Learn from This Case Study

    1. When you design any kind of marketing piece, keep in mind the cost to produce and distribute what you create. That is, compare its potential selling power to the cost of making it and getting it in front of people. You may be surprised at how it is possible to create something powerful for very little money. You may also be surprised to see that some high-end design pieces may not be as powerful as some of the less flashy ones. Keep your eyes open. Notice what works and what doesn’t.


    1. Think about the colors, composition, and size of any poster you create. This is actually true whether you’re designing a small window cling, a large format print poster, or a building wrap—or any other marketing piece for that matter. Be mindful of how you can capture the viewer’s entire field of vision. How can you engage her or him? Color is an excellent way. Size is another. But be aware of the physical workings of the human eye (and its limitations) as well as the aesthetics of graphic design.


    1. Be mindful of where the piece you design will be “experienced.” This is easy to determine if you’re designing a point of purchase display. Maybe it’s a bit harder for a large format print poster, or a brochure. However, this does bear consideration.


  1. Your prime goal is to get a meaningful message in front of an open-minded prospect. You have a lot of tools at your disposal. Use them wisely.

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