What Is a Wanted Poster?

A wanted poster warns the public of an alleged criminal who remains to be at large with the authorities. The poster typically includes a brief description of the subject, the crimes committed, and a monetary offer to reward whoever can catch the criminal or provide a helpful tip that will lead to the person’s arrest. Government bureaus and local police departments usually produce wanted posters for public display in hopes of capturing the wanted person advertised in the poster. In some cases, the immediate capture of notorious fugitives n is endorsed along with a bounty to entice the public and hasten police operations. Thanks to public announcements like these, law enforcement agents can ensure the safety and security of all.


The Advantages of a Wanted Poster

There are a variety of ways to communicate with the general public. One of the most efficient is through the use of large posters that clearly convey your message. If you want to raise awareness about a relevant issue, designing a poster would be a wise option. Using a poster to inform the public about fugitives, terrorists, and missing persons is an effective way to make people aware of a matter that they wouldn’t otherwise have known about. The poster offers a ton of advantages in terms of getting the word out to more people at a quicker rate.

Cheaper Costs: Among the many forms of advertising, creating and distributing posters remain to be one of the most cost-efficient options in the market. A single poster is already enough to cover an entire area, as long as it contains all the right elements to make an impact. A poster with excellent print quality also has a longer lifespan compared to other print advertisements. Messages are often kept short, direct, and specific to make it easy for readers to comprehend.Higher Visibility: Not everyone has the time to watch the news or read the paper in the morning. The only way to ensure that your message reaches your audience is if you bring the wanted poster to where they are. You can put the poster up in specific locations to increase awareness in that area and make sure your message sticks in a person’s heads for a while longer. The goal is to get as much people as possible to view your poster.Active Response Rates: It’s easy to capture a person’s attention, which makes the true test of your poster’s effectiveness its ability to get people to act. What you need is a good call-to-action that will inspire your audience to be active. Whether it’s to make a phone call, report an activity, or attend an event, your wanted poster must send a clear message that will encourage readers to do their part as a member of the community.Targeted Audience: Although wanted posters aim to warn the general public about people who are a threat to society, you’ll still want to get the attention of those individuals who are likely to respond to your message the way you need them to. Apart from setting the poster up in targeted locations, the tone and language of your poster may also increase your chance of a positive response. This is what makes posters a versatile option for those who want to send a warning to as much people as possible.

How to Make a Wanted Poster

The idea of wanted posters goes way back to the 1870s and the 1880s when reward posters were popular in the Old West. Although they were mostly distributed as handbills and postcards at the time, the authorities slowly began using photos along with these notices for identification purposes. The wanted posters that we see today may be a far cry from how they were in the Wild West, but they still play an essential role in delivering a message to the public. You can even design a wanted poster for a non-political purpose, as long as your intentions are made clear in its content.

Step 1: Outline Your Poster

The last thing you want to do is to overstuff your poster with different kinds of elements all at once. The more information crammed into your poster, the more confused your audience will be. See the value in keeping it minimal by planning your poster design beforehand. This will help you prioritize the elements that matter and ensure that your message remains clear and easy to understand. Keep in mind that how you present the details of your wanted poster to an audience may significantly influence the outcome that it generates.

Step 2: Create a Compelling Headline

Summarize the entire poster in one mind-provoking headline. While you could always keep it simple with the word “Wanted,” some agencies and vigilantes like to make their headlines more compelling to attract attention. The FBI’s “Most Wanted” list, for example, is widely recognized by the public due to the bureau’s efforts to make it known. Word choice doesn’t have to be a big deal in this case, as you could always stick with something simple and rely on good typography to do all the work.

Step 3: Add the Necessary Details

Unlike flyers and brochures, posters are usually printed on one side. This limits the amount of space available for you to add information about the subject in question. For this reason, it’s essential to only add the essential details of the case to your poster. This includes the name, physical attributes, and crimes allegedly committed by the individual, as well as the bounty offered by law enforcement that would lead to the person’s capture. The information must be as accurate as possible to avoid misidentification. Remember to add your contact details as well, as people who have seen your poster might have a few tips that could help you in your search. Numbers and addresses must be updated regularly so witnesses can get in touch with you right away.

Step 4: Insert a Photo

Add a photo of the person at large. If you don’t have one available in your files, you could use the accounts provided by witnesses to sketch out the person’s appearance. Any visual representation that will help in recognizing the individual should be useful to your audience. It’s a good idea to position the image at the front and center of your layout to garner the most attention. If possible, a high-quality photo of the alleged criminal would do the trick. This will help viewers familiarize the person in the picture, even from a distance.

Step 5: Include a Call-to-Action

No advertising material would be complete without a call-to-action. A CTA guides readers in taking the next step after viewing your wanted poster. If you’re going to motivate your audience to be on the lookout for the wanted person, you can provide instructions that readers can follow should they encounter the criminal in public. It can be anything from calling a number, visiting an office, informing the nearest police officer, or even snapping a photo of the individual. Any tips or leads that witnesses have to offer are sure to help you move forward with the investigation.

The Dos and Don’ts of a Wanted Poster

Some posters get you excited, while others keep you educated. Wanted posters may not be as fascinating as the creatives you’re used to seeing in public, but they can definitely evoke an emotion from your audience. Knowing how to drive people to read and respond to your wanted poster is crucial to generating desirable outcomes. Not only can it lead people to be more vigilant to their surroundings, but it can also encourage them to act in times of trouble. Listed below are some dos and don’ts to help you get your message across effectively.


1. Do make it readable from a distance.

When you put a poster up on a wall or a bulletin, you expect people to notice it. But there’s a massive difference between a poster that is visible and a poster that is readable. Not everyone who sees your poster cares enough to come close to it to read what it says. The size and style of your text elements can impact the way viewers respond to it, so be very careful when putting all the essential elements together. It’s best to opt for a more interesting yet readable typeface that can capture the attention of your audience and connect them to the wanted poster.

2. Do consider the size and location. 

Where are you going to place your poster? Size and visual clutter are some factors that may affect your decision over the poster’s location. For instance, you don’t want a blue poster to hang on a purple wall. Since you won’t be able to paint the wall a different color, adjustments must be made to your design. You probably want to use a contrasting color scheme to make the content of your poster stand out. Most wanted posters are located in government offices and precincts, so you can expect the poster to be surrounded by message announcements, reminder notes, and other visuals with monochromatic colors.

3. Do optimize space. 

Space is an essential component of graphic design. And because people will be looking at your poster from a far distance, the proper use of space between elements is an important factor to take note of. Not only does it enhance the visual impact of your poster, but it also keeps your content readable. Adding a bit more space between texts and images is one way to achieve a more clean and well-organized layout. You also need to consider applying margins and borders when necessary.

4. Do use one big image. 

A wanted poster always consists of an image of the person at large. It could be an actual photo of the individual or a rough sketch designed by a professional artist or a law enforcement officer. Regardless of the case, adding a dominant image to your poster is crucial in spreading awareness. You want to put a face on the subject being described in the wanted poster for people to be informed. It’s one way of making the message of your poster easier to remember during critical circumstances. This will also intrigue a passerby who may recognize the individual from a previous encounter in public.

5. Do remember that less is more. 

Unlike business posters, your wanted poster must be as simple as possible. There’s no point in filling it with texts and graphics that play no relevance to its primary purpose. It’s about choosing a dominant text or image to draw in the attention of a viewer, while successfully conveying your message to the masses. Avoid long paragraphs by keeping your sentences short. You can also use a bullet format to list details about the subject in a manner that is easy to grasp. A minimalist approach is always a good thing when you aim for an informative layout rather than an imaginative design.


1. Don’t do it in a hurry. 

Never rush to make a wanted poster. As much as you want to catch the person before the worse comes to worst, rushing things will only make you forgetful. You might miss a few important details that readers deserve to know about. It’s bad enough that you forgot to tell people about the crimes committed, but what if you misspell a person’s name by mistake? You could end up putting someone else’s life in danger due to your carelessness. Thus, it’s a good idea to proof your poster before printing.

2. Don’t put too much details. 

Warn people about the individual, but don’t give away too much information that could cause the public to panic. You don’t need to detail every single crime committed by the subject, as it could likely be too unsettling for readers to take in. Some officials also fear that the public might tamper with the investigation by sensationalizing the matter and becoming bounty hunters. People often forget that these criminals are perilous, so you need to be very careful about what you put in the poster that could cause the public to react unfavorably.

3. Don’t use a bad image. 

This is a tricky one, as wanted posters with shots from a security camera as their main image are pretty standard. While it only makes sense to try and work with what you have, poor-quality images often cause more bad than good. In this case, innocent people are falsely identified by those who have seen the poster and assumed that the individual in front of them was a perfect match. It’s often difficult to tell when all you could see in the picture is a man with buzz-cut hair and a full beard. Inaccuracy can be a dangerous thing in a world where people tend to jump to conclusions so quickly. Hence, it’s vital to add precise descriptions of the individual based on what you know.

4. Don’t forget your contact details. 

If people want to report something suspicious, they should know who to call. Your contact information is a crucial part of the poster as it leads people to respond immediately. For instance, if you’re trying to locate a missing person, the wanted poster should let the public know who they can call if they have any leads that could help with the case. The contacts listed in the poster may include your personal numbers and that of the authorities. Make sure this is located in the most visible area of your poster for viewers to find.

5. Don’t ignore the value of digital posters. 

Now that we live in the modern age of technological advancements, print marketing is no longer a leading medium for advertising. You can find electronic versions of business flyers and event posters on the Internet that are specifically designed to reach an online audience. Given its significant reach, it’s only practical to start using digital posters alongside its printed counterpart. You can upload the poster on your website and social media pages to spread your message further across a series of networks and among different audiences.

Posters work actively to spread a crucial message across to a targeted audience. In addition to promoting businesses and organizations in their campaign, they also assist government agencies in making public advisories to raise awareness over an important matter. Simply put, wanted posters allow law enforcement officers to remain active in their search for criminals, terrorists, fugitives, and missing persons before a case turns cold and all else is forgotten.