Poster Tips

I’m in a mad rush to get a zillion and one things done before I leave in less than 2 weeks!!! Why is it, you can have an equally long to-do list, but if there’s no pressing date, time seems to move at a reasonable pace. But, as soon as the deadline is something you can’t change (like a conference date, or plane ticket), then time just starts flying by. I feel like I’m barely keeping my head above water here.

Anyway, part of getting ready for my trip means creating my poster and getting it printed before leaving. I spent all of yesterday getting a solid draft (or 3 or 4) of my poster made and sent to my supervisor. As I was working on it, I made a list of my poster design tips and tricks.

  1. Read it over. Then read it over again. Then have someone else read it over. And finally, read it over again. The last thing you want, is to be standing in front of your poster for two hours only to realize that you have a few glaring spelling mistakes. Maybe people won’t catch them, but you won’t be able to notice anything else.
  2. Poster colours. If your project doesn’t have a logo or colour palette, then a good fall back is your university colours. But, try to stick to a few, and don’t go overboard.
  3. University logo. On that note, don’t forget to mention your university somewhere on the poster. I mention it twice – once at the top (title, authors, and then institution(s)) and again with the logo placed off in a corner.
  4. Double check poster size layout. Pretty much every conference I’ve gone to has used a different size/layout for the poster. Some are portrait, some landscape and they differ by how many inches by inches or cm by cm. Make sure your poster (including any extra boarder you want to give when cutting after printing) is within the limits. It’s frustrating if you end up not being able to fit your poster on the provided display board, or, if your sharing the display board with someone else, if they or your posters have to overlap.
  5. Text size. It’s really hard to make your font too big. On the other hand, it’s really easy to have it too small. You want people to be able to read everything (except maybe references if you need to include them) from a meter away.
  6. Contact information. Make sure you supply contact information (specifically email) on your poster. Posters are often left up during conferences, so it’s possible (likely) that people will look at your poster when you’re not standing in front of it. This happens even if there is only a set poster session – as it’s likely you’ll want to spend some time going to look at the other posters.
  7. Consistency. Make sure there’s a consistent and clear layout on the poster that means people reading it know what section to read next. Also, it’s better to design your poster such that you read the *entire* poster top to bottom, left to right, instead of in rows left to right like in a book. If there are two people reading your poster, they shouldn’t need to swap spots or move around in order to read the poster.
  8. Pictures! Figures! Graphs! Tables! Great ways to cut down on text is to use pictures. When you include them, make sure that they will print at a very high resolution. Blurry pictures will have people quickly moving by.
  9. Don’t. Be. Wordy. This is probably my biggest downfall, and something I constantly struggle with. But being concise is really important. People usually only spend a couple of minutes in front a poster. You want them to be able to get as much information in that time as possible. Easiest way to do that, is to be very concise and to the point so they can read your entire poster in a couple of minutes. But make sure it remains clear – people are more likely to remember your work if they actually understand it.
  10. Backgrounds. Some people really like picture backgrounds – and sometimes it works really well. But when it does, there’s always one thing in common – all the text is very easy to read. When it doesn’t, it’s usually because (at least partly) the background picture makes the text difficult to impossible to read.
  11. Sponsors/Funding. Don’t forget to mention anyone who helped fund your research – like NSERC, SSHRC, CIHR or NSF.
What are you suggestions for making posters?
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