Three questions to ask yourself when designing a poster
- What is the most important/interesting/astounding finding from my research project?
- How can I visually share my research with conference attendees? Should I use charts, graphs, photos, images?
- What kind of information can I convey during my lightning talk that will complement my poster?
Elements of a Poster
These are the recommended parts of a poster. Depending on your topic, you may need more or fewer sections than are described here. Don't be afraid to deviate from the outline, which is meant to provide the elements of a typical poster.
- Your name should be present on the poster. Also consider including the name of the event, your contact info, the year, and other "citation" information.
- Your title should be descriptive and take no more than two lines. Choose a capitalization scheme, such as All Caps (every letter is capitalized), Title Case (capitalize every major word, like in book titles), or Sentence Case (capitalize the first word and proper nouns). Try to make your title catchy as well, as it may be the only thing people will read before deciding to whether or not to read your poster.
- At some events, you may be required to have an abstract section on your poster. If you are, have an abstract. If you are not required to have an abstract, consider not including an abstract and instead think of the whole poster as an abstract of your work.
- Include background information in this section, and get the audience interested in why your research is interesting and important. This is a hook to encourage the audience to read further. It may also be a good place for an illustrative photo or image.
- Describe your experimental procedure here, and use figures, charts, diagrams, etc., to make the method clear to the audience. Be clear and concise.
- Lead with whether or not your experiment was successful and a short description of the data. Then expand on your results and include appropriate figures and graphs. Sometimes, this may be the only section of a poster someone will read, so make the data and results clear.
- Again, state the major outcome of the experiment or study. Remind people why the topic is interesting and important, as well as mentioning possible future directions for research, the importance of the topic in relation to major work on the subject, etc.
- Cite any item referenced in the poster, as well as other major works in the field. Include a complete bibliography on a handout.
- Thank mentors and advisers here, and if you have received funding thank the person or office in charge of the funds.
- Include your contact info for people who want more information. If your project includes a website or a link to download a pdf of your poster, link it here (just make sure the link isn't blue and underlined on the poster).
Tips & Tricks
- When possible, break up paragraphs into numbered lists or bullet points.
- The default tab or indent size is often too large. Use the ruler to reduce tab size, or indent manually using spaces.
- Correct bibliographic formatting is very important, so pick a citation style, stick with it, and double-check your citations. See our APA Citation and MLA Citation guides for help, and/or contact your friendly librarian.
- Keep the number of font styles down. One type for the title and section headings, with another for the body text, is usually sufficient. Generally, serif fonts (with "feet") make smaller fonts easier to read.
- Body text should be in 24-48 point font. The title and other headings should be larger. Make the title visible at a distance, and the body text readable from 4-6 feet away. To check, size your PowerPoint to 100%, center it on a paragraph, and stand five feet away from your poster. You should be able to read the text with no difficulty. The font size for the title should be around 72-120 point font with headers about 36-72 point font
- Before sending your poster to be printed at full size, print off a mini copy on regular printer paper. The change in format can help you check for mistakes.
- Be aware of the common colorblind combinations, such as red and green, and avoid them in your poster.
- If you have a colored background, or one with an image, make sure the text is easily readable and that the overall effect isn't too busy.
- When choosing images, make sure they aren't pixelated when the poster is at 100%.
- Be consistent in your design choices. If one text box has a border, they should all have borders, or if one section heading is bolded they should all be bolded, etc.
- Know your audience when choosing which subject-specific jargon to use. People who can read music know that forte means loud, and a fencer will know that the forte is the lower third of the blade, but for most people, it means an area of strength.
- Graphs, charts, etc. should have informative titles and labels.
For more helpful tips read Colin Purrington's suggestions for successful poster design.
Remember the “KISS Principle”: Keep It Simple, Stupid! In succinct, brief, jargon-free terms, your poster must explain: 1) the scientific problem in mind (what’s the question?), 2) its significance (why should we care?), 3) how your particular experiment addresses the problem (what’s your strategy?), 4) the experiments performed (what did you actually do?), 5) the results obtained (what did you actually find?), 6) the conclusions (what do you think it all means?), and, optionally, 7) caveats (any reservations?) and/or 8) future prospects (where do you go from here?).
The number one mistake made in poster presentations is often too much information! Try to keep your poster to the point and clear. You can always include more information in your handout or on a website.