C Studio Project 2: ReelAbilities Poster

Hannah Lesser
13 min readSep 15, 2021


I was assigned the ReelAbilities Film Festival. I didn’t know that this was a festival focused on people with disabilities until I visited their website to learn more. I’m going on Friday to the ReelAbilities shorts with Ricky, Emily and Jacky.


The exercises were really helpful in familiarizing myself with different page design concepts, like stroke weights, linespacing, and tab shifts. It was interesting to be able to experiment with these concepts.

These were some of the exercises I found most effective.


Today I went to the screening for the ReelAbilities shorts. I was really glad I went. All of the shorts were genuinely really good. I definitely gained a better understanding of the mission of the festival, too. I think their mission is to celebrate and uplift films made by and about people with disabilities, whether these be mental or physical.

The creator of one of the films was also there and we were able to listen to her after the screening. They let the audience ask questions. Her film was a documentary short about dealing with an ADHD diagnosis. It was very enlightening and powerful.

I will use my newfound knowledge to guide what I choose to place importance on in my poster, as well as what colors and images I choose.


I chose 75 Bold and 45 light as my two stroke weights. I thought these would contrast nicely against each other and emphasize what I intended in an effective way.

cutting and pasting

This was the first layout I came up with. I think working physically with my hands was nice to ground myself and I kind of appreciate the analog nature of it. I chose to make “Crutch” bigger than the other titles because it’s the film they’re pushing the most and it seems to be the most anticipated film in the festival.

After establishing a basic layout, I made my future iterations in Illustrator.

I think the ones where the text touches the edge of the page create more visual interest, but they also create a feeling of uneasiness. I don’t think the ones where I’ve tilted the text are as effective as I envisioned them to be. I think if I had the tilted text interacting with another element on the poster, it would be more effective.

Next, I started experimenting with color.

These were the paint samples and magazine strips that inspired my color palette. I really enjoy how a bright flourescent green or yellow interacts with a deep blue or purple. Trying to recreate these colors in Illustrator was interesting.

experimentation is good

I decided I like the palette on the bottom left the most.

I started experimenting with color gradients but I wasn’t happy with them. I was also becoming more unhappy with the 75 Bold font. It was time to switch gears.

I was a lot happier with these experiments. While keeping the same color palette, I changed my second stroke weight to 55 Roman. I think this was a smart choice. I experimented with abstract shapes, which I created using the pen tool and adding a feathering effect. I thought these shapes could represent the broad range of experiences and disabilities that ReelAbilities tries to showcase. I also experimented with pairing these shapes with the stroke of themselves. I don’t think this really adds anything to the poster, so I’m not sure I’ll continue with those. I think I like the deep blue more than the maroon and the purple.


Our class on Tuesday was really helpful in assessing what makes an effective poster hierarchy. Vicki said that a lot of our posters (mine included) have too much going on and that maybe we should consider dialing it back. She also mentioned that vertical text can sometimes act like a wall that stops the eye. Overall, I think we need to dial it back and focus more on how our viewers’ eye moves through the page.

Next, we’ll be working with image in our posters. Also, we’ll be working in an 11x17 format from now on.

These were some of the images I found. Both of the live action images are from films being shown at ReelAbilities, Chen Chen and Crutch, respectively. The illustrations are ones that I found online that I felt best represented diversity within the disabled community.

I found some stock iamges that could be interesting to explore too.

I think these are the three I’m going to experiment with for Thursday.

These were the iterations I came up with for the first image.

I think I’m most drawn to the ones where it looks like the type is shooting out of the actors’ arms. I think this increases the dynamism, but may also decrease readability. I’m also worried about image quality for this one. When I printed it, the quality was not very good.

I also tried it on a white background, but I hated it.

This is what I experimented with for the illustration.

I think the illustration is cute but I’m not crazy about it. It definitely gives off more of a “cutesy” vibe compared to the stills. I also ran into the same problem that I did the last one where it printed super low quality. This one was worse though. I think if I wanted to continue using this illustration I would have to trace over it in Illustrator.

This is what I came up with for the other movie still.

I like the second one where the type is on a path and it leads you to the date and location. I also like the last one where the still takes up the entire page. I like how I used the citron color for the type on this iteration. I like the image itself, but I’m worried it doesn’t say enough about the film festival itself.


I think Vicki liked the still from Crutch more than the one from Chen Chen. She said if she say the poster with a boy in a wheelchair she would be turned off to the event. So maybe I won’t use this one.

She also said she didn’t think the diagonal type was working for me in the same way that it was working for someone like Anthony. I was worried about the image being too big because it doesn't print in the best quality, so she suggested making it smaller or making it go off the page and only having half fo the image seen. I think I like this image too, but I need to embrace negative space more. She also said one pop of color on the black background could be really powerful. She also said I needed to add one line that I felt encapsulated the mission of the festival. This is what I made.

I think I like this one the most:

The hierarchy and order of information makes the most sense in this one. I’m worried that my descriptive phrase is too long-winded, though.

I also experimented with a completely different idea.

I was inspired by Matisse paintings to make the figures. I really enjoy the color gradient created with the green and orange colors from my original color palette. If I chose to pursue this idea further, I would redo the figures and spend more time on them. I like how the figures create a sense of movement or dancing on the page, however this might not make sense since it’s for a film festival.


I went to Yoshi’s office hours today and showed him what I had done during/after class on Thursday. It was interesting that he commented that he liked this one:

After Vicki said she thought this one was not as effective.

He agreed that he liked the color gradient in my Matisse-style figure exploration, but he said the figures themselves reminded him of sports and that he might think the poster was for the paraolympics. He suggested combining the two by applying the image to the color gradient and adding a color burn, screen, or soft light filter on it. He also said I need to stick to two or three type sizes and three groups of information so that your eye isn’t working too hard trying to find all the info. He also mentioned that my tabbing in the film dates was unnecessary. HE suggested that I make the titles bold and not the dates. He told me that I need to keep thinking about how the viewer’s eye moves through the page, and emphasized that if I choose to put ReelAbilities on a curve, I need to make it point to somewhere with other information.

This is what I tried.

I actually really enjoy how the screen effect looks with the picture and the gradient. I think this is a nice combination of my two ideas and I’m really glad Yoshi suggested it. I also switched back to using 75 Bold instead of 55 Roman. I think this interacts better with the image, especially when I put the type behind the image slightly. I also got rid of the tabbing on my shows times and i tried to consolidate the groups of information.

This one is my favorite:


Yoshi came into studio again today and gave me some suggestions. He said he liked how I implemented the image and the colors. He also said he liked how I put the three pieces of text at the top, he said it felt intentional. He suggested making “ReelAbilities” slightly smaller so that thr R lined up with “Film Festival”. He also suggested making “Crutch” the same size as the rest of the the titles because it was unclear that the image was from Crutch, or that Crutch was the most anticipated film. This was my final poster for Tuesday’s crit after his suggestions:


During crit, Vicki said she was tired of seeing the citron/chartreuse color. She also said she wished I had experimented more with how my type, everything is left-aligned and “behaves”. Vicki and Andrew both suggested adding an odd-column grid to help experiment. In retrospect, I should have started my poster with a grid. Once I figure out how elements work on a grid, I can then break the rules of a grid to create visual interest. Vicki also suggested moving away from strict 1/2 inch margins.

I also experiemented a bit more with color. Andrew said that as my poster stands among the others, it’s a bit “quiet”. he said this was not necessarily a bad thing, but he asked if I wanted to embrace this quiet nature or make the poster louder by adding another color and making the type settings more interesting. Vicki suggested bringing in a teal from the plant illustration I used last week.

I ultimately arrived at this design as my final:

I think the addition of the teal and the right alignment of the titles was really helpful in creating more visual interest for my poster. I enjoy how the eye moves through the poster more now.

Overall this project taught me a lot about hierarchy, page layout, color, type, and use of image. The power that all of these elements have separately, and even more together, can be really impactful. A poster may seem like a minute detail in the grand scheme of things, but it has a lot of potential to draw people in to your event or cause. A designer has to make conscious decisions on how they want the viewer’s eye to move through the page. They have to decide what is most important and what takes secondary importance. They have decide what colors to use and what mood these colors will evoke, and how these colors can contribute to the hierarchy. They have to decide on a typeface, what message the typface sends, and what size to make it. They have to deicde if they will include images on their poster. How can they use these images to their advantage to enhance hierarchy and understanding of content? All of these elements come together to form one cohesive, beautiful poster, and one that hopefully gets someone walking by on their way to class to look twice.



Hannah Lesser

design, social and political history at carnegie mellon university