How to Design a Safety Poster

pedestrian caution image by robert mobley from

Today you cannot walk, drive, or go anywhere without safety concerns and reminders. Safety posters and signs warn against everything from water hazards and how to stop choking to ways of preventing slips and falls. Safety posters are designed to help others avoid harmful situations and to prevent accidents. Designing a safety poster requires a bit of research and a touch of artistic flair. You want the poster to capture the attention of the intended audience, whether it's intended for a specific workplace environment or for the general public to take notice.

Identify the intended warning or safety concept you want to the poster to convey. Safety warnings such as "Caution" are too basic for a designed poster; the word alone in bold print is enough. The idea here is to present a specific caution via a simple illustration, such as: Caution: Known Shark Area, or Caution: High Voltage. These words followed by an illustration of wavy lines to represent water and a protruding shark fin, or a few lighting bolts and a power line silhouette convey the message easily.

Draw simple illustrations. A busy poster with too many lines and colors will confuse the audience. Illustrations should be crisp, and their meaning should be quickly recognizable. Silhouettes are a perfect illustration to represent people, and can be modified to show people engaged in various activities, like a running man silhouette or a hiking silhouette. Other symbols such as a circle with a diagonal line crossing through it represent something you should avoid or not do. These are simple designs used to convey a message quickly, for safety.

Choose the size of your poster based on the degree of danger present, or the importance of the safety concern. Simply put, a minefield warning should be very large–about door-size–so that it's easily noticed. Whereas a "Remember to wash your hands after leaving the restroom" poster should be small, about legal or letter size.

Select attention-getting vibrant colors. Bright reds and cobalt blue are good eye-catching colors. Combined with thick boldface black type, these colors will compel a passerby to stop and read the poster. A poster that is hard to read or visually confusing will most likely be ignored.


  • The human eye tends to look to the top left-hand corner of an image first, then scans down to the bottom right corner. Placing an eye-grabbing image in the top left corner and a contoured line or pattern leading down to the bottom right corner will ensure that your safety poster gets noticed and thoroughly read.