Guide to Creating a Missing Person Poster

missing person poster
A memorable missing person poster will improve the likelihood of finding your loved one faster. Here's what you need to know right now.

A memorable missing person poster will improve the likelihood of finding your loved one faster. But most people looking for a missing loved one are not specially trained in poster making. That’s why we put together this package of tips based on the best practices top advertisers use to get their messages noticed.

By the way, be sure to also check out this article about how to find a missing person for a number of little-known ideas, and clear instructions, that you may want to consider using.   

To be effective, a missing person poster needs to be three things. It needs to be:

  1. Eye-catching – For people to find out about your missing person, the first step is to get their attention. 
  2. Compelling – Once you have eyes on the poster, it needs to engage the viewer to make them want to get involved (even if that just means they should remember the picture) 
  3. Memorable – Once your missing person poster has gotten a viewer’s attention and engaged them in the story, the last step is to make it stick in their mind – so they keep it top of mind. 

This article will help you design an effective ‘missing’ poster, quickly. Whether you are and amateur or a professional graphic designer, this will help you get to where you need to go. And, it is my prayer that you are reunited with your missing loved one quickly and in good health. 

A Word Of Caution: Don’t Get Bogged Down In The Details

As a word of caution, this advice is meant to help you get the most that you possibly can out of the ‘missing’ poster. However, if at any point you find that you are getting bogged down in the details and losing precious time, stop. You can always create a very simple, yet effective, poster that includes all of the basic elements necessary. 

Step 1: Write Down The Main Details of the Missing Person Poster

A ‘missing’ poster can only be as effective as the information it provides. That’s why we recommend compiling all relevant details right off the bat (you won’t necessarily present them all in the poster). It will help prevent forgetting important details, which is all-too-easy to do during stressful situations. And focusing on the obvious is a good way to make progress since, once you’re done with this step you’ll be most of the way finished. 

Here are the main details to compile in this stage:

  • Name
  • Age
  • Current photo – make sure this image is clear and current. If the missing person dyed their hair recently, for example, it’s important to present them with their current hair color. And if that’s not possible, at the very least, the new hair color mentioned on the poster. Bottom line, don’t use a photo that doesn’t accurately portray the way the missing person actually looks – that means no using photos that were altered by Instagram filters and the like.
  • Circumstances
  • Date last seen
  • Missing from area: school (if applicable), city, state
  • Physical features: height, weight, piercings, tattoos
  • Last seen wearing
  • Contact information
  • Social media pages 
  • Hashtag (such as #BringJohnDoeHome)
  • NamUs case number (if available)
  • Reward amount (if applicable)
  • Any other relevant information about the person or situation

As you can see from the list, some pieces of information are more important to include that others. Once you’ve decided what is important to include and have gathered all of the necessary information, you can go on to the next steps.

Step 2: Consider Your Audience

When planning the ‘missing’ poster, it’s important to think strategically. Who are the people that are most likely to be helpful in using this poster to help find your missing loved one? In advertising, they call this defining your ‘target audience.’ If this seems trivial, it’s not. This will dictate every aspect of the poster including, the image you will use, the type of design you choose, and the information you include. 

With the target audience in mind you can decide where are the most important places to hang up and distribute the poster, what types of details will be important to include in the poster, and the type of language you will use when writing the poster. For example, if your missing loved one is aged 20-something and was active on instagram and you are targeting a 20 something audience, then consider including a hashtag and instagram account name on the poster.  

Step 3: Write The Text of the Missing Person Poster

When writing up the text for a ‘missing’ poster, less is usually more. But that’s only true as long as the poster includes a clincher – a compelling enough message that will get readers to remember it. Therefore, the first thing to consider is, what aspect of the story is most compelling and memorable to the target audience? What will help them remember this and take action?  

The most compelling part of the message could be the way the person went missing, or it could be the fact that there is a video of the last time they were seen which can be accessed online somewhere, or it could just be the photo that you choose to present. This main message is what carries the rest of the poster with it. 

Step 4: Designing the Missing Person Poster

You probably need to get this poster designed and printed really fast. To this end, you have 3 options:

Do It Yourself Poster Design

If you feel comfortable using an online design program to make a missing person poster, by all means use one. There are a number of options which allow you to create the ‘missing’ poster and then pay only if you like what you see. 

One free option is Canva. If you are comfortable using similar programs, it will do the trick. However, if you are not and you don’t have someone helping you who does, I would recommend hiring someone to do it for you. 

Hire a Professional Graphic Designer

Using a website such as Fiverr it is possible to find a designer who is online and available to create your missing person poster for cheap. 

Reach Out for Help

If you don’t have any other options left, reach out. There are people willing to help. Check within your own social network or the social network of your missing loved one for someone who can do this. It shouldn’t be too hard. And if you’re all out of other options, you can reach out to kind-hearted strangers through the internet. Websites such as WebSlueths are full of people who may be interested in helping you through your ordeal. 

Step #6: Proofreading

Anyone who has ever worked in graphic design knows that you never want to print something out until getting feedback from other people. On the other hand, it’s important that this stage doesn’t undermine what you’ve done so far. So the people giving feedback should be there for your benefit, not to confuse you or send you completely back to the drawing board (unless they notice legitimate problems which warrant starting from the beginning). 

Ask your proofreader to check for basic editing mistakes such as spelling, grammar, etc. And they should also try to consider whether the poster presents enough information that the viewer can get involved.  

Step #7: Print Out The Missing Person Poster

By the way, don’t let this step inhibit you from the next step: distributing the poster. You can begin distributing the poster right away online. However, getting the poster printed and hanging it up is also crucial. The simplest way to print it up is using a regular printer and hanging up whatever comes out. It won’t be pretty, but it’s fast. This is a good idea to do right away, until you can get it done by a proper print shop.  

When you communicate with the print shop, tell them the situation and ask them to expedite the process — they probably will be happy to. If you need a discount for financial reasons, they might even help you with that too, considering the situation.    

Step #8: Distributing the Missing Person Poster  

Don’t wait and don’t hesitate to bother anyone. If you send out the missing person poster right in the middle of the night, waking up people, so be it. This is an emergency. Post it on social media and ask people to share it. TELL people that you need them to share it. Send it through messenger. Hang it in any neighborhood where it’s likely your missing loved one was or is. And send it to the local news stations asking them to publicise it. Then ask 100 of your closest friends to do the same. 

Wrap Up

I recommend reading this article twice before getting started and then to keep referring to it as you go along in order to keep on track. I sincerely wish you success in finding your missing loved one and pray that this article helps ease the burden.